Year

2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Arts, English and Media

Abstract

This study addresses post-contact Aboriginal art practices of the southern Sydney region; traditional lands of the Dharawal-speaking peoples. Given that a conventional Western art history has found the pluralistic nature of such work problematic, this study seeks to understand how it might be valued and understood in a wider art-world context.

Through extensive field work which included the first survey and analysis of the large body of public art produced in association with Aboriginal people since the Bicentennial, this thesis finds that engagement with non-Aboriginal Australians is an important tactic of Aboriginal people in achieving agency in the modern world; and that, in contrast to assumptions still made about Aboriginal artists working in urban areas, re-establishing and reaffirming relationships with Country remains a core concern.

I argue that a multi-disciplined methodology that employs ideas from anthropology, archaeology and human geography offers the best means of comprehending the sensitive, transcultural nature of the art practices and art histories of Dharawal country.

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