What do the National Museum of Australia (NMA), the home appliance brand Breville and First Nations artists have in common?
Marking a culinary journey that spans 65,000 years, they come together to produce a new exhibition that explores historical and contemporary ‘kitchen’ objects.
Celebrating one of the oldest food cultures in the world, An Indigenous Culinary Journey: Designed to Live, premieres in NMA’s new Lakeside Landing space to launch a partnership between four First Nations artists and Australian brand Breville.
Focusing on continuing to create cultural brands associated with Indigenous food culture by pairing traditional First Nations tools for living with modern kitchen objects, it explores the dynamism of an adaptive culture while fulfilling the Museum’s promise of bring Australian stories to life.
While the exhibit celebrates traditional objects used in food gathering and preparation such as grinding stones, cutting tools (flint), coolamons, fire sticks and baskets associated with First Nations food culture, it also unveils a new six-piece Breville collection..
Comprising a toaster, kettle, coffee machine, juicer, oven and bambino coffee maker, each Breville object is illustrated with signs of country and culture by artists from the Western Desert of Kiwirrkurra—Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri ( Pintupi), Yalti Napangati (Pintupi) and Nikua (Yukultji) Napangati (Pintupi) and Sydney-based artist Lucy Simpson (Yuwaalaraay).
Combining ancient stories with the best of contemporary design, the collection brings a bit of country into people’s homes, creating the ultimate fusion of age-old Australian art and food culture.
Describing the exhibition as unique and “benchmark”, NMA’s Senior Indigenous Curator Margo Ngawa Neale said the importance of the partnership is not just to showcase Australia’s culinary journey, but also the high cultural and legal integrity in which it was made, including the partnership with Dr. Terri Janke, a Wuthathi/Meriam woman and an international authority on Indigenous cultural and intellectual property.
“This is a truly unique and benchmark way for a truly socially responsible Australian company to partner with First Nations artists and a cultural institution,” says Margo.
“These four artists have done something I call ‘Country Wrapped’ around these kitchen appliances and they get an astronomical sum for each appliance because they [Breville] didn’t ask them to decorate them, they asked “Do you want to put your country and your dreams on it?”, as they would if they had commissioned a painting.
Initiated and developed by Alison Page, a Wadi Wadi and Walbanga woman from the Yuin Nation who is part of the National Museum‘s Indigenous Reference Group and is currently Adjunct Associate Professor of Design at Sydney University of Technology and Founder of The Agency National Indigenous Design Fund, the Breville Art Project will be available for purchase by the public.
And with each artist owning the copyright to their work and receiving ongoing royalties for every product made, Breville donates 100% of its profits to the National Indigenous Culinary Institute of Australia, Indi Kindi by the Moriarty Foundation, University of Technology Sydney, and other initiatives supporting the creation of opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people—a significant partnership for both the brand and the artists.
“Breville does this to position and brand itself as an Australian company and does this in recognition of the First Peoples of this country,” says Margo.
“Living in the heart of homes, these once mundane devices, now shrouded in Country, are becoming cultural ambassadors.
Sharing Australia’s 65,000-year-old First Nations culture in a modern context, An Indigenous Culinary Journey: Designed to Live not only juxtaposes the idea that highly sophisticated objects of design provide the same service as traditional Indigenous tools, but also pays homage to the history (and future) of brand-making.
“Cultural branding is what we have always done since time immemorial. And we’ve evolved over time and some things stay the same, like the defining elements of culture that are important to us in our daily lives,” says Margo.
“To me, it’s no different than an Aboriginal painting on canvas in your living room…It’s a way to have Aboriginal art and culture at the heart of your home.”
Until Sunday August 7, the exhibition will tour internationally later in 2022.
What: An Indigenous Culinary Journey: Made to Live
When: until Sunday, August 7
Where: National Museum of Australia in Canberra
The Web: nma.gov.au