The Purple Shall Govern Exhibition

  • Photo Courtesy of UCT Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives. <br><noscript><img src=
    Photo Courtesy of UCT Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives.
    The artist has applied a purple hue to the original monochrome archival image.
The Purple Shall Govern Exhibition
Exhibiting: 29 January - 27 March

Launch event: Saturday 19 February, 2-4pm (RSVP required)

Artist Talk: Sunday 20 March, 2 – 3:30pm (RSVP required)

Walking Tour with Elders: Sunday 27 March, 2 – 3:30pm (RSVP required)
Event Information

The Purple Shall Govern, an exhibition and expansive public program presented by artist Roberta Joy Rich, explores the resilience of people during Apartheid-era South Africa, alongside those living on the unceded sovereign lands of Australia. Through re-framing history and her own family narratives, Roberta hopes to shed light on how the past informs our experiences in public spaces in the present.

What are the conditions of power we experience in public spaces?

How do they inform our sense of being, presence and permissions of movement today?

Artist Roberta Joy Rich invites you to experience The Purple Shall Govern, a series of new installation works that hope to inspire recognition, reflection, resistance, and release. The works will be presented as part of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Arts’ Big Picture exhibition series Who’s Afraid of Public Space?  

The Purple Shall Govern is a new major work that endeavours to reveal the slippery nature of borders and their embedded presences. The exhibition invites us to navigate and consider our relationships with histories that have residually informed the ways in which we move within public spaces. It considers the duality of boundaries that have informed resilience, and the unyielding nature of people and publics,” says Roberta.

Through a process of reframing moments, affirming stories and anarchiving materials, Roberta invites you to consider our collective histories and its relationship to how we experience public spaces.

Also explore related events The Purple Shall Govern: Sounds of Resistance and The Purple Shall Govern: Screens of Resistance.

Artist Talk
Sunday 20 March, 2 – 3:30pm
Artist Roberta Joy Rich shares insights into her family’s history with you, delving into the stories behind the exhibition. Facilitated by Samira Farah, Roberta will take you through the deeper meanings behind the works, drawing inspiration from the archives, consultations, and personal stories.

Walking Tour with Elders
Sunday 27 March, 2 – 3:30pm
The Purple Shall Govern is held on lands bordering the Maribyrnong river banks. Do you know what stories inhabit this place? The exhibition invites you to examine history as we know it. On this Walking Tour, join artist Roberta Joy Rich and Elders Uncle Larry Walsh and N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM as they guide you through the rich landscape of Kulin Country.  

Key dates:

Exhibiting: 29 January – 27 March
Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday: 9.30am – 5:00pm
Saturday and Sunday: 10am – 4pm
Launch event: Saturday 19 February, 2-4pm (RSVP required)
Artist Talk: Sunday 20 March, 2 – 3:30pm (RSVP required)
Walking Tour with Elders: Sunday 27 March, 2 – 3:30pm (RSVP required)

Roberta would also like to acknowledge the contributions of Ash Buchanan (Production Consultant and Fabrication), Marco Cher-Gibard (Sound Engineer and Consultant) and Eliki Reade (Producer) to The Purple Shall Govern exhibition.

Presented as part of Who’s Afraid of Public Space? in collaboration with the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art.

This exhibition is generously funded by Australia Council, Creative Victoria and the Besen Foundation.

Date & Times

29 January – 27 March

Roslyn Smorgon Gallery



The Purple Shall Govern‘s opening event will be Auslan interpreted.

The Roslyn Smorgon Gallery is Wheelchair Accessible.

Specific works:

Family Lunch (Working Title): audio descriptions are provided on screen 

And so the mood was quite intense: Interview (broadcasted aloud), will be accompanied by a written transcript, available in a perspex box near the installation

Foley: This video will be closed captioned

Meet the Artists
  •  Roberta Joy Rich
     Roberta Joy Rich

     Roberta Joy Rich is a multi-disciplinary artist who considers and responds to constructions of African identity and histories, often referencing her own diaspora southern African identity and experiences. Since her MFA at Monash University (2013), Rich has exhibited projects in Melbourne, interstate and South Africa including: Deny/Denial/Denied; Blak Dot Gallery, (2017), One Colour at a Time: Contemporary Screen Prints; Wits Art Museum, Johannesburg (2017), M/other Land; Arts House (2018), Transmissions; Gallery MOMO Cape Town, (2018), The Fairest Cape? An account of a Coloured; Bus Projects, (2018), Firstdraft, Sydney (2019), WE KOPPEL, WE DALA; Metro Arts, Incinerator Art Award (2020), and Stimulus Package; FUSE Festival (2020). An alumni of FCAC’s Emerging Cultural Leaders Program (2017), her residencies in South Africa have previously been supported by NAVA, the Freedman Foundation, Arts House and Australia Council for the Arts. Roberta was the 2020 recipient of the Australia Council for the Arts Debra Porch Award for residency at the Cemeti Institution for Art and Society, Yogyakarta, (postponed) and is currently undergoing a Creative Development and Mentorship program supported by ACMI and the Ian Potter Cultural Trust (2021). 

  • Samira Farah
    Samira Farah

    Samira Farah is an independent art producer, researcher and broadcaster. She is a co-founder of Melbourne based Black African arts collective still nomads. She currently hosts a weekly show called The Score on Triple R. 

    Image of Samira by Adella Muorwel.  

  • N'arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM
    N'arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM

    N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM is a Boon Wurrung Elder from Victoria who is recognised as a keeper of the history and genealogies of her people. She says, ‘It’s about the strength of families, our heritage and the sense of belonging to place.’ N’arweet is a language and linguistics expert and is dedicated to recording her Boonwurrung language in oral and written form. She has been active in community development, Native Title, cultural preservation and cultural promotion. For many years she ran the Tjanabi restaurant in Melbourne, which specialised in contemporary Aboriginal cooking, promoted the Boonwurrung culture and became ‘the place to meet’ for Indigenous people. N’arweet established Australia’s first Aboriginal childcare centre and is CEO of the Boon Wurrung Foundation, which she set up to help connect Aboriginal youth to their heritage. Her cultural knowledge and experience has been recognised by communities throughout Australia. 

  • Uncle Larry Walsh
    Uncle Larry Walsh

    Uncle Larry Walsh is a local Aboriginal cultural leader and storyteller. He particularly loves working with the younger generation as he sees them as the torch-bearers of the future. Inspired by his local Aboriginal community, plus his own Kulin ancestral blood connections to his country, Uncle is one of the only senior Elders in Melbourne who focuses specifically on storytelling, ensuring the cultural continuity of his ancient oral traditions. 

    It’s important to note that Uncle Larry is a pure storyteller. He sees his focus being on the oral tradition, the story – as an important expression and make up of Aboriginal culture. He wishes to display that Aboriginal people live as much in the modern world as intimately as they are connected to their past.