The Orana Arts team attended the opening of Aleshia Lonsdale’s 2016 HomeGround exhibition at the Western Plains Cultural Centre and Paris Norton shares her response:
A softly spoken woman – family in tow – stands outside the doors of the gallery at the Western Plains Cultural Centre. Adjusting her glasses, she stands there quietly, avoiding the fuss and attention of the crowd that grows in anticipation of the new HomeGround exhibition. Many don’t know, but she is the main event, the mastermind behind an incredible collection. She is Aleshia Lonsdale.
As you enter the gallery space you approach a wall with a quote just slightly above eye level. Immediately you feel dominated. It’s a quote about the removal of children with comparison to the stolen generation. We learn from this that we are battling in today’s society a far bigger problem than we might assume. Taken aback by the quote you move along a narrow walk way. The wall blocks sight of the other artworks making you feel like one of many sardines in the can as you squeeze your way through the crowd. Behind opens up a rabbit warren of walls and artworks. Where do I look first? You can’t help but see that this style of entrance was curated to set the emotion and complexity of the topic.
The artworks speak of complex conditions and realities of Aboriginal communities and the forced removal of children from their families. Works that hit you in the places that make your belly turn as you think of your own child and the life you so desperately fight for them to have. It makes you hold them that little bit tighter and watch as they are fascinated by the red and yellow petals that flow against the wall and onto to the ground. My son is taken simply by the pretty colours, completely unaware that his imagination plays with representations of fallen children.
A clothesline of baby clothes displays the inner pain and thoughts of those affected by this system hang beside you, protest signs in sand line walls, the tears that the deaf hears do not seem to hear fall from the celling.
The bravery of Aleshia’s voice is astounding. Her works are done so simply and so well yet her voice speaks for thousands of stories and most importantly her own. She talks straight to you. No fuss. I feel extremely privileged to have my name alongside this artist in the Orana Arts Left Field Project and I can’t help but feel a little giddy as I wander around the works, completing my fourth loop before I give in to my child and take him home.
Aleshia’s work hooks you like a honey trap. They are beautifully put together with a quality to them that draws you in and urges you to look closer. It’s then that you realise the important and not-so-pretty messages they hold. Her work creates conversations that need to be started. I hope her work inspires others to question those ‘well-intentioned policies’ and reflect on our own views.
Her work is a blinding bright light for the future of Aboriginal contemporary art and I am eagerly ready to walk in her footsteps.