Forrest's Sojourn: a journey into the other

Janawirri Forrest

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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For much of my life I have worked both as a visual and performing artist which gave me profound experience of the Aboriginal art market from an Indigenous Australian perspective. I have explored this experience through research-as-reflection into my personal participation in both becoming an Aboriginal artist whilst the becoming of Aboriginal art was happening both in Australia and internationally.

Whilst on tour as a musician I had a chance discussion with an anthropologist in New York. I later found he had written up part of our conversation in a scholarly article that misrepresented what was discussed. His article provoked this research and prompted me question my experience as both artist and performer.

The method of my research has been to reflect on my life as a Western Desert Aboriginal artist and musician in relation to the developing Global Indigenous art market that has emerged in the last thirty years. I discuss this experience as living in “three worlds”; one, as a man whose identity has emerged within traditional and contemporary Western Desert Aboriginal frames; two, as interaction with Australian society and that of my mother’s European heritage; and three, as an arts professional working both in Europe and the USA.

In my thesis and paintings I reflect on the becoming of Aboriginal art and probe my participation and role in this phenomena. As an artist practicing internationally I experienced the becoming of Aboriginal art from the inside (not as an anthropologist), which led me to question the relationship between the aesthetics and the ethics of this becoming. I also questioned the becoming visibility of Aboriginal art from the invisibility of Aboriginal people, which led to both misrepresentation and miscommunication about both Aboriginal people and their art. Living life as an Aboriginal person is one of constant search and therefore re-search. Through scholarly research plus personal reflection represented in my paintings I developed a method to illustrate my response to this change in recognition.

With this combination of academic and personal reflection I have retraced my trajectory within the emerging visibility of Aboriginal cultural life. It is a story fraught with tension that needed to be told from an Indigenous Australian point of view about how and why this art movement has occurred and the eaffect on me as an Aboriginal artist.

The becoming of the Aboriginal art narrative has created a dialogue about art and the humanities world-wide and it’s important to have experienced this phenomena whilst also questioning, through research, its affect. I have been able to participate in this artistic revolution, which is something I could not gain from instruction or living solely on my ngurra (country) or even living in Australia – I had to go and find that third space, becoming an Aboriginal visual and performing artist in this post-colonial international third space.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Bremner, Craig, Principal Supervisor
  • Woodward, Margaret, Co-Supervisor
Award date31 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017

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