Little love letters

 

Unknown Heart shaped box circa 1940s. Art Gallery of New South Wales, gift of a private collector 2010

Put your love for the environment and fellow humans in this box and save it up for when you spend time in nature with them again.

Gulumbu Yunupiŋu Garak, The Universe 2009. Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors’ Group 2010. © Gulumbu Yunupingu, Buku-Larrnggay Mulka Centre, Yirrkala

This is our universe, which we all share. When you feel lonely, just look up at the stars and think of all the other people who are looking up at them too. Remember how tiny we are in the grand scheme of things but how much difference we can make right now, for the good of everyone else. Alone we are a single shining star but together we can be a galaxy of light.

Mabel Juli, Garnkiny Ngarrangkarni

Mabel Juli Garnkiny Ngarrangkarni 2006. Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors’ Group 2006. © Mabel Juli, courtesy Warmun Art Centre. Licensed by Copyright Agency

This work is about forbidden love. Garnkiny wanted to marry his mother-in-law, Darwool. Enraged because he couldn’t be with her, he left and turned into a hill. Now, every month, he comes back as the moon. In a cruel twist, the ancestors turn Darwool into the star that sits closest to the moon but never touches it. The deep isolation and longing of the would-be lovers are felt in the tension between the two forms.

Anchor Kulunba, Mandjabu

Anchor Kulunba Mandjabu 1985. Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased 1985. © Anchor Kulunba. Licensed by Copyright Agency

A while ago, my father called to ask how my heart was. When I told him it was all smashed up, he said, ‘Daughter, put all those little pieces into the fish trap I gave you. They can’t get out and will be safe there. Then when you are ready, put it on your head like a hat and go out and find someone to help you put those pieces back together with you.’

Vicki West Water Carriers 2011. Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with funds provided by the Aboriginal Collection Benefactors Group 2012. © Vicki West

Aunty Vicki West uses ethical harvesting practices to create kelp water carriers, which were only ever made by Aboriginal people in Tasmania. In the face of a brutal colonial history, these objects are also metaphors, holding culture and Country delicately. Gifts from the artist to the world, they speak of what remains, not what was lost. Only the strongest of spirits can face such adversity and give a gift in return.