Give us our lands

Published: Wednesday 15 June 2005

A dot painting of the Spinfex< Spinfex Tribe London, UK

Five members of the Spinifex people from the Nullarbor Plain in Australia are in London with their first international art exhibition. The tribe were forced to leave their traditional land when the Australian government allowed its British counterpart to begin nuclear testing at Maralinga in South Australia in the 1950s.

The Spinfex use dot paintings to illustrate their ties to traditional lands from which they were wrenched away. Spinifex arts project coordinator Peter Twigg says the project started in 1997 when the Spinifex people's native claim to their land was being documented. "Out of the documentation process came the art project," Twigg said. "People had a lot of fun painting and realised that it was a very good vehicle to tell the outside world about their lost lands and that they are very they're very proud of it."

The project coordinator said that the exhibition was received well: "People here that have walked into the gallery and met the traditional artists face-to-face. Mainstream Australians rarely have such an opportunity. The Spinifex people live a long way away, and keep pretty much to themselves," he added.

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