2022 NGA

National Gallery of Australia: '4th National Indigenous Art Triennial: Ceremony'


Yawuru artist Robert Andrew’s writing machine gradually reveals a phrase in the language of the Traditional Custodians of the Kamberri/Canberra region over the course of its exhibition in Ceremony. Employing open-source, programmable technologies, the time-based installation slowly exposes words on an ochre-painted wall by eroding the outer layer of white chalk.

‘Nainmurra guuruburrii dhaura’ (taking care of ceremonial ground) was gifted to Andrew following his close consultation with Paul Girrawah House, son of Ngambri-Ngunnawal Elder Dr Matilda House, Traditional Custodian of the land on which the National Gallery is located, to identify a phrase with special significance to this place.


Andrew’s use of ochre is a key element of his kinetic sculptures for both its ceremonial significance to First Nations people and its mineral nature. In the palimpsest works, an ochre substrate is revealed by the writing machine, speaking to the concealed histories of First Nations peoples and their experience of colonisation on this continent. Andrew says,

It’s part of that revealing of history, and uncovering. For me, it’s not that idea of completely taking it off, it’s about creating a new image. And it’s not there to translate the word that is revealed; it’s there to give that word a different texture, a different space in which it exists.

In disrupting the white surface and showing the red ochre underneath, Andrew gestures to the ever-present and culturally invested landscape of Aboriginal land beneath the topography of modern Australia.


Robert Andrew’s A connective reveal—nainmurra guuruburrii dhaura was created in consultation with Dr Matilda House and Paul Girrawah House, Ngambri-Ngunnawal Traditional Custodians