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We Eat We Are

Spark NT IS an Artback NT initiative that responds to an identified gap in Northern Territory curatorial pathways. Each year, an independent or emerging curator is selected to develop an exhibition project for tour.

Sarah Pirrie is curator of WE EAT WE ARE (WEWA), celebrating food and culture in the NT. She answered some questions for us.

Tell us about the exhibition!

WEWA was curated to celebrate food as a form of social sculpture that unites, nourishes and renews. As we eat, we embrace the unexpected and the familiar, and plot a vision of our future selves. Focusing on the multiplicities of Top End Northern Territory creative identities, WEWA represents a cross-section of our social and cultural diversity.

What drew you to the project?

Spark NT is a unique program – we do not have anything quite like it here in the NT. I have in the past tried to apply for funds to tour an exhibition, and so I was keenly interested in getting some first-hand experience with this process. The Spark NT curator program also fulfils an ambition to elevate local artists and the NT as a creative meeting place.

How were the works selected?

I have included a comprehensive demographic in the artists selected, both in the type of engagement they have had in living in the NT (particularly the subtropical Top End) and in the creative exchange that happens here. From Indigenous Elders to international students, it’s a unique demographic of creatives that bring a unique and often culturally specific perspective to food. I hope WEWA reflects the diversity of the Territory through food exchanges that have been occurring regionally and with each other, long before colonisation.

What kinds of works and mediums are included?

WEWA has a great mix of artists, from emerging to internationally recognised. From graphic painting of Filipino food culture, to the recycled feast of mud mussels reflecting the creative home and host of coastal living. Artworks are diverse including painting, photography, sculpture and installation.

Coming together with loved ones over food is a universal experience – what do you think are some experiences unique to the Territory?

WEWA really came from the artists, who represent a diversity of experiences and food culture. From climatic and seasonal variations to kinship and family, the Territory’s experience of food is rich in regionally appropriate plants and their subsequent dishes and recipes.

And we hear there’s a public program to coincide with the exhibition?

There are lots of wonderful activities, from the curator’s talk to special events such as Looking Beyond Tukka with Emma Lupin and Indigenous chef Ben Tyler, and Migration and Markets, also with artist Emma Lupin and illustrator and author Tisha Teya. Artist Christine Barzaga also runs drawing workshops throughout the exhibition.

We Eat We Are

Photo: Header & Thumbnail – Kaye Brown, Raelene Lampuwatu Kerinauia, Janice Pungautiji Murray and Michelle Woody, 'Jukwarringa (Mud Mussels)', 2018, earth pigment on shell.

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