Heather Kamarra Shearer: Four Directions
20 May – 05 June 2016
Tabitha Buckley, Arts and Entertainment Editor
This week, the Naughton Gallery plays host to acclaimed Stolen Generations Aboriginal artist, Heather Kamarra Shearer’s first solo exhibition in the UK. The exhibition features works in all manners of artistic medium, from paintings to posters, ceramics to clothing, and is made up of pieces from throughout the artist’s career.
Based on Shearer’s life journey, her work is heavily influenced by Aboriginal culture, history and social issues. The “Four Directions” of this particular exhibition are inspired by conversations Shearer had in art workshops across the four sections of Belfast – North, East, South and West. “There is a right way and a wrong way,” she explains, “but there is one element that ignores, infiltrates, divides, undermines and destroys – the notion of superiority.”
The entire exhibition is divided into the Four Directions, with each direction representing another area of exploration. “South” explores Aboriginal art as a medium through which the artist can publicly discuss trauma, justice and healing. “North” focuses on the importance of our countries and cultures to our identity, as well as our responsibility to look after our country. “East” is an exploration of the self, and how it’s important to understand ourselves. Finally, “West” focuses on cultural art, traditional learning, techniques, imagery and styles.
About the Artist
Beginning in 1900s and running on right up until the 1970s, numerous indigenous children were unjustly removed from their parents following the introduction of various policies by the Australian government. One of these children was Tanya Fly, who would later become Heather Kamarra Shearer following her adoption by the Shearer family in 1960.
Shearer began painting in 1991, using art as a means to explore the confusion, loss and trauma experienced by herself and her fellow members of the Stolen Generations. Consequently, her art is largely self-reflective, explaining that “It is not art for art’s sake. It is my voice, and I do it to clear my mind, balance my emotions and understand how the outside influences have impacted on me.”
Who Were the Stolen Generations?
The Stolen Generations were the Aboriginal children who were forcibly taken from their parents and forced into adoption, often never to see their original families again. Most of the children taken were those of mixed descent, as it was believed that these children could be integrated into the “superior” white society more easily.
This inhumane practice was introduced by the Australian government due to the belief that white people were inherently superior to all other races. By stealing children from the Aboriginal people, the government stole the future of the race. With no children to carry on their culture, the Aboriginal culture would inevitably die out, ending the “Aboriginal problem” once and for all.