Cultural Connections is a project partnership between IACA and the National Museum of Australia (NMA)
Endeavour Voyage: The Untold Stories of Cook and the First Australians is an exhibition exploring stories from the HMS Endeavour’s voyage up the east coast of Australia. Presenting both ‘the view from the ship and the view from the shore’, it will open at the NMA in April 2020.
The exhibition is a key outcome of the National Museum of Australia’s Endeavour 250 program which includes three interrelated elements: the Endeavour Voyage: The Untold Stories of Cook and the First Australians exhibition, the Encounters Fellowships and Cultural Connections. Shona Coyne, Senior NMA Curator, said, “Nothing speaks more powerfully in an exhibition than the voice of community who are directly related to the story. We know our audiences want to hear the Indigenous perspective on this story (Cook and the First Nations people) and these artworks are key, in telling it. It’s about time this story was told from both sides”.
IACA was invited to become a partner in the Cultural Connections program including arts development workshops run by IACA facilitator Edwina Circuitt, as well as men and women’s cultural maintenance camps. During the workshops which were held in October and November 2019, Edwina and Shona explored information from the Endeavour voyage, including journal entries written by Captain Cook and Joseph Banks, with the artists from Hopevale, Yarrabah and Bana Yirriji Arts Centres.
Hopevale Artists produced a series of lightboxes exploring the interactions of the Guugu Yimithirr people with Cook and his crew while stranded at what is now known as Cooktown for 48 days after the Endeavour ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef. Artists from Yarrabah chose to make White Devil Men out of rainforest driftwood, representing Cook and his crew. Bana Yirriji Arts in Wujal Wujal explored many ideas such as Joseph Banks collecting plant and animal specimens. Bana Yirriji artists learned that a huge hole was torn in the Endeavours’ hull when it hit the reef off Weary Bay, so chose to collect pieces of driftwood from Weary Bay and paint their stories on the wooden fragments. Most of the driftwood was from the surrounding rainforest but artists joked that it could be pieces of the Endeavour!
The Cultural Connections workshops were a great success. Artists loved learning more about the Endeavour’s first voyage and addressing and responding to the history of it. The creative outcomes have been extraordinary and most of the artworks produced will be included in the exhibition.