Art & Design

Choose To Challenge With This Moving Exhibition Of Female First Nations Artists

By Tim Piccione
22nd Feb 2021

With International Women’s Day fast approaching on March 8, we’re keeping our ear to the ground for incredible events happening around Sydney, celebrating the achievements of women everywhere. Perhaps none do that better than the totally unique We Choose to Challenge exhibition opening today at Cooee Art Gallery in Paddington.

Running in conjunction with IWD and Art Month, the exhibition displays the works of Indigenous Australian women from across the country. In keeping with the IWD 2021 theme, #ChooseToChallenge, it presents the individual work of artists and collaborative pieces that emphasise the interconnectedness between groups of women who share land, community, and culture. Like the First Nations female artists who emerged in the 1990s, IWD is asking us to choose to challenge the norm, whether artistically or by calling out gender bias and inequality. “From challenge comes change,” says the campaign. This year is also about choosing to seek out and celebrate womens' achievements.

You’ll notice the common thread of pinks throughout the displayed artworks—separating and expanding the colour from stereotypical and societal feminine connotations. The colours, alongside rich ochres from the Australian land, its flora and fauna, reclaim First Nations femininity and identity.

The show includes works from the Warlpiri community in Lajamanu, Northern Territory, far north Queensland, Utopia in the Eastern Desert, the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in South Australia, and the Kimberley in Western Australia. 2021 also marks the 40th year that Cooee Art has been working directly with Australian Indigenous artists and bringing their works to the public.

Across its Paddington and Bondi spaces, Cooee Art has been at the forefront of displaying and helping sell First Nations’ artworks, celebrating Indigenous history, figures, illustrators, painters, photographers, and more. After many yearly exhibitions showcasing brilliant First Nations female artists' work, this year’s show will be the last Cooee Art hosts at its Oxford Street gallery home before moving to East Redfern on March 25. To acknowledge their time there, Cooee Art will be holding a closing party on March 13 from 2 - 5pm.

Drop into the gallery to see the show until Saturday 13 March, or check out some of the artworks from the We Choose to Challenge exhibition on display and for sale here.

The Details

What: We Choose to Challenge exhibition
When: Until Saturday 13 March
Where: Cooee Art Gallery, Paddington

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Image credit: Kaltjiti Collaborative, Nganampa Ngura Our Country, 2020

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