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Visual Arts and Exhibitions

Disrupting Artistic Terra Nullius


Disrupting Artistic Terra Nullius; The ways that First Nations women in art & community speak blak to the colony & patriarchy

By Paola Balla
Creative Thesis PhD
College of Health & Biomedicine
Victoria University

The notion of an artistic terra nullius refers to the violent erasure of Aboriginal peoples and in particular to First Nations women & builds from the historic notion of Aboriginal Peoples as ‘absent.’

This research sets out to document & respond to the work of Aboriginal women in art & community. I have used practice led inquiry informed by my own roles as artist, writer, curator, community researcher & as a Wemba-Wemba & Gunditjmara, matriarchal & sovereign woman. I have practiced community ways of ‘being, knowing and doing’ to witness, participate & respond to Aboriginal women’s art making & activism in a series of essays & a new body of visual works.

The exhibition will hold two seperate but related responses in two spaces; an epistemological space (the knowing) an active studio of photographic based works drawn from matriarchal family stories, both past, present & future. This includes family reclamation of Wemba-Wemba language. The ontological space (the being) will be one of memory, timelessness, respite, healing & created as ‘daily acts of repair’ by Paola & in collaboration & sharing with other Aboriginal women & family members in a new process of eco dyeing fabrics, clothing & rags to become ‘healing cloths.’ The cloths are dyed with gathered gum leaves, bush flowers, plants & Wemba-Wemba family bush medicine gifted to her by her Aunties and delivered by her mother. The ontological space is one of ‘unconditional love,’ and is an attempt to manifest a three dimensional space that makes visible trauma trails & stains & visualises what respite & healing could look & feel like.

OPENING: Friday 6 December, 6–8pm
EXHIBITION: 6-20 December
WORKSHOP (see below): 10 December, 11am–3pm
VENUE: Footscray Community Arts Centre
COST: Free

Echo Dyeing Workshop
Echo Dyeing tea towel workshop with locally-gathered Eucalypts and Indigenous plants, facilitated by Paola Balla. Numbers strictly limited, RSVP required to: rsvp@footscrayarts.com.


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Left – Margie the Matriarch, Paola Balla, 2018
Right – Kalina Moonahcullah, Paola Balla, 2019

Date & Times


6-20 December


Footscray Community Arts Centre



This is a past event
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