International engagement is vital in meeting the 2015 ACT Arts Policy vision for Canberra to be a diverse and dynamic arts ecology that is valued locally, nationally and globally.
A number of activities are outlined in the Sister City Agreement between Canberra and Wellington including: cultural exchanges that connect arts communities; events development and national institutions; programs that support opportunities for Indigenous people from both countries; and mutual exchange of delegations that connect Wellington City Council and the ACT Government.
The aim of the Canberra Wellington Indigenous Artist Exchange pilot was to provide the opportunity for a local Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander artist to spend up to six weeks in Wellington to work in a new environment and to engage with Māori culture, Wellington-based artists, organisations and the wider community. A Māori artist from Wellington was also given the same opportunity to come to Canberra.
This was an exciting new opportunity for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander artists living in Canberra.
The artists chosen for the 2019 pilot were Dean Cross from Canberra, and Ana Iti from Wellington.
Dean Cross to focus on Indigenous Anzacs on Wellington Exchange
One of the ACT’s most talented Aboriginal artists was chosen to take part in the Canberra Wellington Indigenous Artist Exchange pilot.
Dean Cross flew to Canberra’s sister city, Wellington, in April 2019 to explore the shared history of Indigenous Anzacs using photo and video based practices. The aim of the project was to explore themes of transcultural mourning, Indigenous and non-Indigenous remembrance practices and the complexities of Indigenous National Service in a post-colonial paradigm.
Like many Australians, Dean had an ancestor who lost their life on 25 April 1915, at Gallipoli. As an artist he is interested in how one navigates the cultural space of being both proud to be part of the Anzac narrative, but not necessarily supportive of war, especially as it has developed throughout the 20th century.
Dean is particularly interested in the intersections of history where one narrative is championed, whilst another is omitted, particularly in relation to our Indigenous history. By examining trans-cultural mourning his hope is to be able to provide a foundation for deeper cultural empathy toward those who have suffered, and are suffering, from the effects of the current global war situations.
About Dean Cross
Dean Cross is a First Nations trans-disciplinary artist.
He has been formally trained in both Contemporary Dance and Sculpture, and works across the sculptural and pictorial fields. Through this he attempts to re-evaluate and re-construct what it means to be Australian in the 21st Century, and how that fits within our globalised world.
He has been involved in numerous exhibitions and prizes including Tarnanthi at The Art Gallery of South Australia (2017), The Churchie Emerging Art Prize (2016), and The Redlands Konica Minolta Art prize (2015). Dean is also on the Board of Directors of QL2 Dance, Australia's premier youth dance company.
Dean was born and raised on Ngunnawal country, however his ancestral roots lie within the Worimi Nation.
Image: Dean Cross from Dropping the Bullshit (we look like this too) series
About Ana Iti
Ana Iti is from Te Rarawa decent. She gained an MFA from the College of Creative Arts Toi Rauwharangi, Massey University Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa, e Whanganui-a-tara Wellington 2017-2018, and a BFA from Ilam School of Fine Arts, Ōtauhtahi Christchurch 2008-2012.
Ana is a visual artist who works between text, video and sculpture. She is interested in exploring which stories have been told and what legacies are upheld in our everyday environment. Ana’s current practice interrogates specific sites delving into their shared and personal histories.
Ana uses language as a material in itself. In the past, this has resulted in audio recordings, small-run print publications, and site specific installations made with vinyl cut and painted text. Inherent to her work are the poetics and politics of language.
“As an indigenous artist, I believe that part of this interest stems from my own ongoing work to learn and speak te reo Māori. I have found even beginning to learn my indigenous language to be a complicated and charged experience. It has helped me to better understand some aspects of te Ao Māori while also confronting me with questions about the importance of language to identity.”
Ana is the inaugural Aotearoa New Zealand Canberra Wellington Indigenous Exchange artist. Ana visited Canberra for six weeks during May-June 2019 and based her research on the complexities and effects of learning, re-learning, and continuing to pursue Indigenous languages.
Image: Ana Iti