Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
Lionel Bawden
Weapons for the Soldier

Lionel Bawden was  commissioned earlier this year to create new work for Weapons for the Soldier, a travelling exhibition which recently opened at Bega Valley Regional Art Gallery.

A groundbreaking exhibition initiated by the young men of the APY Lands, bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian artists to examine complex themes of weaponry, warfare, and protecting land and Country.

Weapons for the soldier was a project initiated by the young men of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunyjatjara (APY) Lands, Vincent Namatjira, Aaron Ken, Derek Thompson, Anwar Young and Kamurin Young, with support from senior artists Willy Kaika Burton, Ray Ken, Peter Mungkuri, Mumu Mike Williams and Frank Young. The title resonated with great force for the young Anangu men who initiated this pioneering curatorial project. It is a subject that senior APY artist Ray Ken has explored in his paintings throughout his career, and with his permission and encouragement, along with the support of other senior men who often paint weapons and stories of conflict, these younger men explored what it means to be a soldier today and to fight in order to protect your land and all it entails.

For this exhibition, Vincent and the young men connected with other Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists who they saw as peers. They decided to work on a project where they could connect with artists who have inspired them, on their terms, in a process where their commitment to cultural protocol was maintained. Vincent and the young men had each already examined war themes in their work to date: Vincent painting oft-overlooked Indigenous soldiers and Anwar and Kamurin Young committed to developing high level expertise in traditional weapons and working with other young men across the Lands to create a new iteration of the ongoing Kulata Tjuta [Many Spears] project which was initiated by senior artists Willy Kaika Burton, Kunmanara (Hector) Burton, Ray Ken, Kunmanara (Barney) Wangin, Mick Wikilyiri and Frank Young in 2010. This project offered an opportunity to hear Indigenous voices and to honour the tjilpies of the APY Lands.

Fighting for Country and deep connection to Country are recurrent themes that will be explored, evocative of both the broader tenets of the ANZAC legacy as well as the distinct position of Indigenous people within Australia who have long fought to maintain cultural strength and pride.

Image: Lionel Bawden, Groundwork (AS YOU WALK OVER ME THINK ABOUT WHO I AM), 2018, Exterior paint on coir fibre doormat attached to vinyl base, 40 x 60 cm each, (dimensions of installation variable) Unique within an edition of 3 + 2AP.