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THE FIRST AUSTRALIAN returns to Mosman

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Known as the 'King of the Blacks' and 'Chief of the Broken Bay Aborigines', Bungaree was a central and sometimes controversial figure in early Sydney.

Bungaree (c.1775-1830), was the first person described in print as being an 'Australian' and was known as a mediator between English colonists and Aboriginal people. He sailed with Matthew Flinders, becoming the first Indigenous person to circumnavigate Australia. He was an important figure in early Sydney and was acknowledged for his intelligence, character, sense of humour and flamboyance. His resilience reflected his ability to live both a traditional life and a life enmeshed 'between worlds'.

While Bungaree has been the subject of many written accounts, his story had not previously been examined in the context of contemporary Australian visual arts or from an Indigenous perspective until renowned Aboriginal curator Djon  Mundine OAM invited 15 Indigenous artists to create new works interpreting Bungaree's life and story.

Bungaree: the First Australian was originally launched in September 2012. At the time, it was the biggest exhibition project staged by the Mosman Art Gallery. The exhibition featured artworks by many established artists, including Frances Belle-Parker, Mervyn Bishop, Daniel Boyd, and Karla Dickens. The nationally-touring exhibition (2012-2015) was also supplemented with artistic responses at each touring venue by local Aboriginal artists.

Bungaree: the First Australian has now returned to Mosman Art Gallery as part of the bicentennial celebrations associated with the establishment of Bungaree's Farm, the first land grant by colonial authorities to an Aboriginal person in Australia.

The land, gifted by Governor Macquarie in 1815, is inextricably intertwined with Mosman, and in particular Georges Head at Georges Heights where Bungaree's farm  was located.

John Cheeseman, director of Mosman Art Gallery, says, "This is a local story for the Mosman community, but one that has a very broad national and international significance. The gallery is proud of the leading role it has taken in t e development of this project."

The exhibition returns with works by the original 15 artists, as well as works by artist Lynette Riley and performance pieces by Bjorn Stewart, Amala Groom and Andrea James. Each of the artists has interpreted key issues faced by Aboriginal society in the face of the forces of colonial settlement.

The main focus of the exhibition will be an installation at the tanks at Headland Park, from January 31 to February 8, called Bungaree's Farm. This satellite event is a nine-day program of multimedia works, talks and performances. It is the first time this unique space will be used as an arts venue.

Bungaree: the First Australian will exhibit at Mosman Art Gallery until February 22. Entry is free.


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