Libby Harward is a descendant of the Ngugi people of Mulgumpin (Moreton Island) in the Quandamooka (Moreton Bay). Harward’s recent work engages in a continual process of re-calling – re-hearing – re-mapping – re-contextualising – de-colonising and re-instating on country that which colonisation has denied Australia’s First Nations People. This political practice engages traditional custodians in the evolution of ephemeral installations on mainland Country; land has become highly urbanised and calls for an artistic response. Harward’s work seeks to uncover and reinstate the cultural significance of place with her current place-based sound and video work engaging directly with politically charged ideas of national and international significance.
Do you remember when you first became interested in creating art?
I remember I felt like an artist since I was a child. I always created art and later in life I used my art as a form of healing and then went on to work in community creating art with young people. In recent years after participating in the Gold Coast Indigenous Artist camp I decided to focus on my own arts practise and use my art to connect with and communicate about my Ngugi culture and my life experiences.
Was there anyone in your life who inspired you to become an artist?
I have so many people who have inspired and supported me to be an artist. My cousin Glenda Harward Nalder is a big support and advocate of my art. She has written about some of my works and sometimes we collaborate on ideas. I have received great inspiration from the lead artists from the Gold Coast Indigenous Artist camp; firstly Fiona Foley and then Judy Watson who continues to inspire and support my practise. I am inspired by all the amazing artists from my Quandamooka country as well as all the artists I work with, particularly other Indigenous women artists like recently when I worked with Lavonne Bobongie, Jo Driessens on my Dabilbung project. I also have had great support and Inspiration from Danni Zuvela who has curated an number of my works.
The traditional custodians and community elders from the places I have visited and lived inspire my work and I regularly consult with them whilst making work on country. I am also inspired by my partner Jinibara man BJ Murphy whose country I now reside on.
Where do you draw Inspiration from and what does your creative process look like?
My work is about listening to country. I have an artistic practice of Gangga (a Yugambeh/Bundjalung word that best translates as “to call out and to hear simultaneously”), and Ganggalanji which extends this action to thinking.
I often use this process to reflects on colonial practices and re-instate on country that which has been denied to Aboriginal people.
The practise requires spending time on country, listening, talking to traditional custodians, researching and making works using found objects and ephemeral materials from country and then translating my ideas and new and old knowledges into an artwork.
Do you have a favourite medium to work with?
I love to work conceptually and figure out the best medium to communicate my ideas. However, I love working in mangrove mud.
Are there any mediums that you haven’t explored yet, but would like to?
There are so many potentials here. I am currently exploring how contemporary cultural practices can continue our responsibilities to the Earth, our Mother, to ensure her survival. I anticipate that I will be wanted to explore and use tools from the western sciences and laws and imagine this will uncover new mediums and ways to communicate my ideas.
Do you feel your cultural background impacts your work? If so, can you tell us more about this?
As a Ngugi woman whose Ancestral lands and waters are Mulgumpin (Moreton Island) in the Quandamooka (Moreton Bay Area), my art practice takes the form of simultaneously listening, calling out to, and knowing and understanding that water Country that I belong to.
What do you hope people take away from your work?
I hope my work changes peoples perception by privileging an Aboriginal frame of reference.
Can you tell us what you are currently working on?
I am currently re-working a performance work called Amplification Affirmation Spirit Song to be performed at HOTA event The Darkest Hour. This is a sound performance using an archaeological sieve and a 44-gallon drum fitted with an “irrigation sound system”, amplifying instruments of occupation, classification, extraction, reclamation and greed.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Make sure you surround yourself with people who both challenge you to do your best and believe in your success. Never give up.
Ngali Ngariba (2019)
Installation at Berliner Festspiele
Garden of Earthly Delights
26 July to 1 December 2019
Plants in terrariums collected from Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin (BGBMB)
“Ngali ngariba, a site-specific installation and sound work, gives voice to plants transported during the voyages of discovery from their plant communities in the ‘New World’ to the hothouses and greenhouses in the pleasure gardens of the ‘Old World’. Living plant specimens were installed in the Gropius Bau Museum, sourced from the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin (BGBMB), ask, in the Indigenous languages of their countries of origin, “Why am I here?” A specimen Indigenous to Australia, the Acacia iteaphylla (blackwattle tree) from the BGBMB’s Australian Garden asks, Minyangu ngari gadji? (Why am I here?) in the language of the Ngugi people of the Quandamooka.
“Our Ancestors, who have been waiting nearby for 140 years, will answer, Yuwayi bunji ngali ganyagu wunjayi! (Farewell friend, we are going home)” – Edited excerpt from essay Dr Glenda Nalder found
When talking about this work, Libby often asks her audience to question how long it has been since the plants have been in the presence of their original languages.”
Exhibited aMBUSH Gallery
HERE I AM : Art by Great Women – Exhibition Avenue
“MIRAPOOL is an image taken in documentation of a performative rite or action. I made on my ancestral country, at the salt water lake, Mirapool, on Mulgumpin (Moreton Island).
The work sits in a body of works titled Already Occupied, a series of ongoing contemporary art actions that explore Aboriginal sovereignty through the use of everyday signage – such as those used for construction sites and traffic control. In this work I employ humour, language and materiality to spark conversations with and about Country and my connection to it.
MIRAPOOL, is from a suite of ephemeral works undertaken on Mulgumpin. Everytime I visit my country, I enact these artistic rites using country (ochre, mud, sand, and water) in conversation with materials of occupation, such as road cones, star pickets, concrete, and traffic signs. These activations re-code these materials and hi-vis way finders, privileging an Aboriginal frame of reference, and revealing a language which has always occupied this continent.
Everyday signs and objects are code-switched to foreground the relationship between exploited land and the material from which colonisation is constructed, turning the tools of occupation into a visual language of Aboriginal resistance.”
DABILBUNG – (Brokenwater)
“DABILBUNG – (brokenwater) uses sound and video to engage directly with politically charged issues of First Nations environmental, social, economic and cultural rights around water.
Water is our lifeblood and we need to protect and look after it, as it looks after us.
First Nations people of this country have been holding cultural responsibilities to sustain our waterways from the beginning of time. Yet after just 230 years of colonial mismanagement, our ancient river systems are in grief; over-extracted, commodified, depleted and disrespected. From the speculative marketplace in water futures to rorting of water allocations, excessive irrigation IS colonial violence. Our rivers, in other words, are being bled out.”
Gallery Store: https://libbyharward.art/gallery-store/
Facebook Page: Libby Harward Art