The Makarrata ceremony and the restoring of access to artefacts is bringing the past into the future for Miliingimbi artists. Access to images of artwork restores the connection to inherited designs. The hand over of images after the Makarrata has inspired Milingimbi artists to paint designs, which may not have been made since the 1960’s.
The Makarrata ceremony welcomed senior curators and representatives from galleries, libraries, and museums all over Australia and internationally. These institutions hold significant collections of Milingimbi artefacts. The ceremony allowed Milingimbi residents to assert their right to access and advise on what is culturally appropriate in relation to the collections.
The Makarata emerged out of discussions lead by Dr Gumbala who had been researching his own Gupupinygu artworks in Australia and in international museums. Dr Gumbala was influential in developing the concept of the Makarrata to bring people together in a peace making ceremony. In his research Dr Gumbala had forged connections with museums, libraries and archives in twelve different countries that hold Milingimbi cultural heritage. The Makarata acknowledges his vision for the cultural repatriation of art and artefacts from Milingimbi.
“A major art movement developed in Milingimbi during the missionary period from 1923 to 1974. Missionaries, followed by curators and anthropologists, collected bark paintings and artefacts like woven baskets and jewellery from the community and sold their collections to the institutions. “ said Lindy Allen from Museum Victoria.
After visiting Milingimbi and taking part in the Makarata many of the participants felt that they had a better understanding of how to work with the community in a spirit of openness and the importance of making collections accessible for community members.
We would like to acknowledge all the Makarrata participants for their commitment to restoring access to artefacts for this generation of Milingimbi families and into the future. The Makarrata is part of an Australian Research Council Linkage project, The Legacy of 50 Years Collecting at Milingimbi – a collaboration between Museum Victoria, ANU and the Milingimbi community.
Participants in the forum include representatives from Museum Victoria, the National Museum of Australia, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, the Queensland Museum, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, the Kluge Ruhe Museum (University of Virginia), Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, the Art Gallery of NSW, the Basel Museum (Switzerland), the South Australian Museum and ANKA (Arnhem Northern & Kimberley Artists, Aboriginal Corporation).