Artist Moorina Bonini on the reclamation of cultural identity
Graduating VCA Visual Art Honours student Moorina Bonini discusses her work The Other Reclaims, exhibited in The Stables as part of the 2018 VCA Art Graduate Exhibition.
By Moorina Bonini
I’d like to acknowledge and pay my respects to the traditional owners of the land in which I have worked in the last year – the Boonwurung. I’d like to acknowledge elders past, present and emerging. I’d like to remind everyone that sovereignty was never ceded.
I started my Honours project wanting to focus on my cultural identity. As an Aboriginal and Italian woman reflecting on my own lived experience, I was really interested in trying to examine what the idea of cultural identity is – its constructs and its functionality. I started to examine my own environments and the spaces that I navigated, and what came of that was reflecting on both the negative and positive experiences that have shaped and formed me.
The work I have in the Graduate Exhibition is an adaptation of the work The Other Reclaims that I presented for my examination, which was a reflection on the form of action – the action of taking and the action of examining, the action of reflecting and calling something out and being. So, for me it was mark-making – but making with my hands and re-learning and re-positioning traditional Aboriginal practice such as weaving and transforming it within my own work. Weaving became a part of the action of transforming my nonna’s objects. The pot I have hanging up is a pot that I stole from my nonna’s kitchen, and it’s the pot that I learned how to make gnocchi in.
It’s in reflecting on my lived experiences that I’ve begun to take these items that have aided in the shaping of my own identity, and I’ve attempted to transform them. And in transforming them, it was reclaiming. It’s a reclamation of identity and it’s a claiming of my two cultures.
It’s a claiming of my coloniser blood and my colonised blood, and it’s reflecting on spaces such as the Octagon and The Stables and all the rooms within the VCA that I’ve navigated throughout this year, examining how these spaces shape works but also people.
During my first semester I was creating a work in the sculpture tute room and I attempted to paint half the room block-out black, but what happened when I was painting that room is that instead of completely covering the white you could still see a little bit of it alongside the black. You could see the mark-making and you could feel the action of a reclamation attempt within that space. But then because of institutional regulations, after my assessment I had to paint it all back to white.
What started to haunt me about that room every time I walked past or every time I was in it for someone else’s work, was knowing that there was something behind that white paint and that it was still there, kind of like a living history – an archaeology which, in conjunction with my history and my family’s history, my people’s history, was a strong symbolic representation to me.
For my examination, I went in with an electric sander and for six hours was up against that wall, attempting to reveal the black – and eventually, you could see the black fighting through the white. Eventually it was given that space.
I find the way that space can inform a work and completely control it is really interesting, and in The Other Reclaims I also reflect on culturally-safe spaces. I can feel a bit hesitant about putting my work in a white cube or within an institutional setting because I don’t know if I’m always going to feel culturally safe in an environment like that. My practice is entirely linked to my being. I have to protect myself and it makes sense that I need to think about the spaces I put my work.
Moorina Bonini is a Yorta Yorta woman and a descendant from the Dhulunyagen Clan, located at Ulupna situated near Tocumwal in the Barmah Forest. Her other heritage is Italian, from Latisana, the Province of Udine, in the northern part of Italy. Her work The Other Reclaims was exhibited in The Stables as part of the 2018 VCA Art Graduate Exhibition.