Decolonising praxis : site, history, archive, arts, life
For the On This Site exhibition
Verge Gallery June 3, 2015
Chair: Victoria Grieves
Speakers: Sara C Motta, Salote Tawale, Kirsten Thorpe

All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mystics, find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice…. The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it. – Marx 1845 Theses on Feurbach: II, VII, XI.

praxis – acts which shape and change the world

The curators Kate Blackmore and Siân McIntyre have worked to develop an exhibition that challenges colonialism in a myriad of ways. We experience the juxtaposition of the openness and curves of nature with the straight lines and closed spaces of imperialism, invading beasts are playfully and surprisingly co-opted into Aboriginal worlds, the alarming totemic spirituality of Aboriginal worlds confronts, contemporary greed and materiality is glossed as gluttony while the commercialisation of Indigenous cultural iconic images and objects is questioned.

This exhibition aims to reinscribe the Verge gallery as a site of frontier dialogues. That is, reworking the frontier as historically defined space where cultures meet and often clash, a space formerly characterised by violence. The frontier can also be a place of opportunity and release from social constraints, whereby people are able to live their lives in ways hitherto unimagined.

The frontier can also be a site of freedom – freedom to speak, to imagine, to create, to be.

Thus it is that interaction with this exhibition becomes a point of critique of history and the archive as artefacts of colonialism, as much as it is a demonstration of how praxis – making art, making history, making a life “lived well” – can be working for change and undermining of the colonial project.

In practice, we seek to rework and reinscribe colonialism and its accoutrement into a more just world for all people. It is the two elements, critique and practice, working in the dialectic together, that can lead to the development of decolonised futures.

This panel brings together a group of thinkers and practitioners of the arts and of history, from the global South, to discuss the decolonising praxis, its products and its impacts.

Victoria Grieves

Vicki Grieves is Warraimay from the midnorth coast of NSW. Her history work is concerned with establishing a basis in Aboriginal epistemology for the development of Indigenous knowledges in Australia. Vicki works for social justice for Aboriginal people including, supporting the viability of Aboriginal philosophy and lifeways, and reinscribing the institution of slavery in settler colonial Australia. She is currently writing a history of the Aboriginal family, over space and time – Healing Histories: Family, Identity and Wellbeing in Aboriginal Australia.

Sara C. Motta is a mother, critical theorist and popular educator who is committed to reimagining in praxis decolonising emancipations for the 21st Century. Her commitment stems from her experience of being a mestiza of Colombian and Polish Jewish heritage and experiencing the gendered and raced exclusions, violences and silencing of coloniality. She has worked in numerous critical education projects and with women in movement in both Latin America and the UK and published widely in relation to new forms of popular politics.

Through self- performance Salote Tawale explores the identity of the individual in collective systems. Projects draw upon personal experiences of race, ethnicity and gender, growing up in suburban Australia. Employing photography, video, installation and live performance in her work’s, Tawale is heavily influenced by the feminist video artists from the 1970’s.

Kirsten Thorpe, a descendant of the Worimi people of Port Stephens, New South Wales, is the Manager, Indigenous Services, at the State Library of New South Wales. Kirsten’s approach to archives management is essentially to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the return of archival sources of knowledge, including through the digital domain, allowing the people and communities to be actively involved in managing their own cultural heritage and knowledge production.