Dear friends, families, extended families and new families,
My name is Robert Fielding.
I am a Yankunytjatjara and Western Arrenda wati.
I have travelled from Mimili Community on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands.
Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara, Arrenda, Luritja, Arabana, Adnyamathanha, Ngarrindjeri, Kaurna:
These are only some of the language groups I’ve transitioned through in the past few days.
I am grateful to stand here on Kaurna country today, not as one, but as many:
I speak with my community, my art centre, Mimili Maku Arts, and my Elders past and present.
In the Kaurna language, Tarnanthi means to rise, to come forth.
It is what it is to be Anangu, to be Aboriginal, to be a First Nations custodian of this country today.
We rise, we come forward – and we lead.
Today is about honouring our Elders, their ability to rise and stand strong – again and again.
It’s about remembering what they have taught us, are still teaching us today.
It is to the memory of my Elders, their achievements, their battles, their hurts, that I call for a minute of silence before proceeding, a minute of remembering our unity, of gathering strengths for the days to come, for the generations to come.
--- 1 min of silence ---
Iriti Kuwari Ngula – past, present and future – united as one. Today is about rising together:
To create is to tell the stories that live in the land, the stories that flow through our veins.
We are our country, our culture, everything that surrounds us.
Our stories hold all of us together.
We tell these stories for our future generations, to pass them on as it has been forever.
Our creative spirit may be old, but our voice is current, it is strong.
Here, as part of Tarnanthi, is a powerful collection of story, song and dance, of video, sculpture and painting.
Our communities, our families, our stories have always been connected:
Our culture connects us. Our art connects us. Our country connects us.
Tjukurpa, wapar is everywhere, it flows through all of us, brings us together as one. We have always shared in this deep understanding as Anangu.
In a world so divided, we must remember this:
We must remind others of our connection: to each other, and to the earth. Manta Miil-miilpa.
Tarnanthi is exactly what it claims to be:
This, here, today, is our collective voice rising and telling our story.
And whilst it is hard to stand here whilst so many of us are in Sorry Business, remember that we create for our community, our family, our people, but we also create for every single one of you:
Art is the ground upon which we can always stand united.
In our language we say Ngapartji–Ngapartji: A process of doing things together, side by side. To give to one another, to share.
This is at the core of our culture, our art centres and communities.
Side by side, we work and we lead.
We know that if one of us succeeds, we all rise strong.
We support each other.
We celebrate each other.
Because we are one.
Here at Tarnanthi we have leaders from different generations, from different regions of country, speaking different languages, and working across different materials. And while politics across this globe become more divided, look here:
Look to our un-wavering commitment as Anangu, as Aboriginal people, as First Nation custodians to come together, and imagine an inspiring way to be, to move forward whilst standing strong in our roots.
The works by our family at Iwantja Arts, spanning 40 years, tell the story of building on the legacy of our Elders, of creating a strong foundation – Titutjara, for always.
We are also honoured with the final work by my kami, teacher, and Mimili matriarch. I know she is watching over us tonight. She has left her knowledge to three generations of strong women, and her malanpa, who are here today.
From out west, Juluwarlu Art Group presents a project involving four generations of men, celebrating their ongoing cultural traditions.
Ray Mudjandi gives us the epic story of Black Speed, a young boy who gains superpowers to overcome the challenges of youth.
There’s too many to mention, but all of these stories ring true in my home of Mimili. They ring true across this continent, across the world. These are our stories: Ngapartji-Ngapartji, side by side.
Do not forget the generosity of our storytelling.
After everything, we still stand here and do what we have done forever, what we have to do:
We share our knowledge, care for our country and waterways and everyone who lives on it.
I was recently East, on Bunurong country, where I sat with First Nations artists, many I now consider friends and family.
I left humbled, with great respect for the way they have carved out a stronghold of culture in the brutal reality of urban Australia:
Our culture and our spirit is ever present. It is in the land, in our actions and in our stories.
It shines through all hardship. It shines through all lies, it shines through attacks and it shines through all hate. When I see this light shining through, I see the true spirit of this country. I see the true spirit of our story and I see the tili that will continue to guide this nation.
Love for all, hate for none.
The past months have been hard for our communities and our people. We have been dragged through the media, questioned, and debated. Our role as First Australian’s has been kicked around like a football.
This environment would crush many a people, but our light never wavered. The true spirit of our story never dimmed.
This exhibition, among many other things, is this light.
It is a gift and an invitation to remain united – despite everything.
While this speech was first taking shape, our nation was casting its first votes. My community was casting its first votes.
Voting on the future of this country, on the future of our communities.
But our future was never yes or no, it is not black or white, this way or that way.
This year has demanded every bit of energy and spirit our communities have, and still we bring you this exhibition. Still we keep our communities together, still we look to the future, still we rise – knowing we have the strength of our Elders and country behind us.
Knowing that our light shines even brighter through the cracks.
This journey is never over.
We don’t go home saying: Oh well, we tried.
We don’t go home to our families and give up.
We keep walking the routes carves out by our Elders.
We keep pushing for a better future.
And we do it together – with you.
Take a moment to look around you, acknowledge whom you are standing with today.
We are all in this together, and we shall continue to rise – together.
Now, let’s celebrate the rising of Tarnanthi.