Brenton Ken, Witjiti George, Mick Wikilyiri, Ray Ken and Taylor Cooper at work on the Men's collaborative 2016

Brenton Ken, Witjiti George, Mick Wikilyiri, Ray Ken and Taylor Cooper at work on the Men's collaborative 2016

Australian War Memorial Partnership Project

In 2016, The Australian War Memorial approached Anangu elders requesting a commission of a major work depicting the importance of defence of country to Aboriginal Australians to be installed in the Foyer Gallery of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. This opportunity arose following the success of the Hazelhurst Regional Galley collaborative works, which were created in 2016. Collaborative artworks have been produced throughout the history of the APY art-making movement, with the collaborative painting process used as a tool by Indigenous Elders to instruct culture and painting techniques to younger generations.

In this major commission for the Australian War Memorial, Senior Men across the APY Lands embarked on a seminal collaborative painting work that explored the themes of connection to country and protecting country. Expansive in scale, this 2 x 5.5 metre painting was the largest artwork produced on the Lands to date and involved over forty male Artists of all ages. The work is now on permanent display in the Foyer Gallery at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Kulatangku angakanyini manta munu Tjukurpa [Country and Culture will be protected by spears] has been hung in the orientation gallery, directly opposite the Memorial’s most treasured relic – the bullet ridden Gallipoli landing boat that took men of the 13th Battalion ashore on 25 April 1915.

“There is a connection that Anangu have with Country. It is one of the most important responsibilities: looking after Country, protecting Country, and keeping Country safe. The ancestors handed down this responsibility, and it is as important today as it was hundreds of years ago. It is a particular man that will risk his life for Country,” Mr Frank Young.

“In this painting and its prominent display, we are reminded that we are all equal – irrespective of politics, race or religion, we are Australians. We are reminded that this place in which we reveal our nation’s soul, we honour those who in every sense have fought to defend land – Aboriginal land, our common land, our nation Australia.” Dr Brendan Nelson, Canberra, 2017.