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‘Layers of Blak’ at Ballarat Art Gallery 

‘Layers of Blak’ at Ballarat Art Gallery 


From 9 December 2023 to 10 March 2024, the Art Gallery of Ballarat will host the Koorie Heritage Trust’s ‘Layers of Blak’ exhibition and display more than 50 pieces of jewellery by Victorian First Nations designers.

Previously on display at Melbourne’s Federation Square, ‘Layers of Blak’ coincides with the second-year of the well-received Blak Design program overseen by the Koorie Heritage Trust (KHT). 

Revered as one of the first of its kind in Australia, the success of Blak Design symbolises a crucial and much-awaited step in acknowledging and reasserting space for First Nations Peoples’ design in the overall Australian design landscape. 

Made possible by the KHT, National Gallery of Victoria, RMIT University and the Ian Potter Foundation, Blak Design seeks to not only promote the innovation and ingenuity of Victorian First Nations design, yet offer a platform for designers to share sustainable and collaborative First Peoples design customs.

Story-telling vessels

Koorie Trust Heritage CEO Tom Mosby says the contemporary jewellery in ‘Layers of Blak’ acts as a vessel in which to communicate the rich cultural traditions of First Nations people from south-east Australia. 

Art Gallery of Ballarat director Louise Tegart reiterates Mosby’s stance, confirming that the items on display extend beyond the realms of stunningly crafted jewellery. 

Damselfly Dreaming by Sammy Trist (Taungurung). Photography by Fred Kroh.

“Each piece also carries resonances of stories and connection to Culture and Country – presenting this exhibition is part of our ongoing commitment to supporting and showcasing First Nations artists in our exhibition and other programming,” says Tegart. 

The oldest and largest art gallery in regional Australia is honoured to display work by two local Wadawurrung artists – Doctor Deanne Gilson and Tammy Gilson –  in addition to other Victorian artists hailing from a wide range of language groups.

MANDI BARTON (Yorta Yorta, Barappa Barappa, Wemba Wemba), Danin (Float) Necklace 1 2022. Danin (Float) Necklace 2 2022. Danin (Float) Necklace 3 2022. Possum skin, aluminium. Photography by Fred Kroh. 
Exhibition details

The artists and designers whose work is on display have participated in a series of intensive jewellery-making workshops at RMIT’s jewellery studios led by acclaimed jewellers Blanche Tilden and Laura Deakin.

As a result of attentive guidance and training, each artist produced a beautiful collection of jewellery that pays homage to culture, Country, family, and the ongoing cultural tradition of adornment.

Participating artists include Gunditjmara artist Thelma Austin, Yorta Yorta/Barapa Barapa/Wemba artist Mandi Barton, Palawa artist Yasmin Silveira, Bidjara artist Nikki Browne, Barkindji Ngiyampaa Maligundidj artist Tracy Wise, and many more. 

‘Layers of Blak’ promises a peerless and culturally rich visitor experience that broadcasts the eternal significance of First Nations artistry right in the heart of Ballarat. 

Featured Image: Blak Design Program cohort, Blak Design workshop, RMIT University 2022. Front row (left to right) – Thelma Austin, Mandi Barton, Tracy Wise, Sammy Trist Middle row (left to right) – Tammy Gilson, Yasmin Silveira, Shamana Seery, Nikki Browne, Deanne Gilson.

For more regional news, check out what The Murray Art Museum in Albury has to offer.


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