Wiradyuri Artist Amala Groom Awarded First Nations Creative Fellowship

Amala Groom at Parramatta Artists Studios Rydalmere Photography Jacquie Manning

Amala Groom at Parramatta Artists Studios Rydalmere Photography Jacquie Manning

Proud Wiradyuri woman and conceptual artist Amala Groom has been awarded the 2022 First Nations Creative Fellowship to produce a new cultural work that will challenge recorded histories of NSW through spoken Wiradyuri/Wiradjuri language.

Annette Pitman, Chief Executive Create NSW said the fellowship, established in partnership between Create NSW and the State Library of NSW, supports the critical work of Aboriginal artists in challenging and informing our understanding of Aboriginal histories.

“Congratulations to Amala Groom who now has the opportunity to work with the talented First Nations staff at the State Library to access and transform its collection with an important new work that will investigate her mother’s Wiradyuri/Wiradjuri language, interrogate our assumptions, and ensure NSW histories are understood through the vital lens of living Aboriginal people,” Ms Pitman said.

“This fellowship is part of the important work of prioritising Aboriginal histories and voices which have been historically silenced or misunderstood in our collections and archives. I commend the State Library on its extensive work with Aboriginal communities to add their stories and knowledge to the historical record in culturally appropriate ways.”

State Library of NSW’s Manager of Indigenous Engagement Damien Webb said the Library is thrilled to announce conceptual artist Amala Groom as this year’s First Nations Creative Fellowship recipient.

“The $30,000 fellowship will support the creation of a work that engages critically with the Library’s Wiradyuri/Wiradjuri language collections and context. By examining the rich but complex language records and materials held in the collections and exposing the silence which has often surrounded them, Amala’s work is challenging, inspiring and surprising. The Indigenous Engagement Branch is excited to work with her on this project,” Mr Webb said.

Amala Groom said this fellowship will provide a life-changing opportunity to occupy space in the academy in the remembering of Wiradyuri, her mother’s language, culminating in a series of live performances.

“Working with family, community, and the Koori staff at the State Library of NSW, and underpinned by Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property, we will together negotiate the cultural, ethical, and moral parameters in what collecting performance art looks like for the institution with the collection of my work setting a precedent in best practice for contemporary arts and cultural practice.” Ms Groom said.

The $30,000 NSW First Nations Creative Fellowship is a partnership between Create NSW and the State Library of NSW to support a NSW Aboriginal artist, knowledge holder or creative practitioner to undertake creative research that will work towards a presentation outcome at the Library.

Amala Groom is the second recipient of the NSW Aboriginal Creative Fellowship, following 2021 inaugural Fellow Bundjalung artist Dr. Bronwyn Bancroft. The fellowship is part of a suite of Creative Leadership opportunities aimed at supporting artists across multiple artforms.

About the NSW First Nations Creative Fellowship 

The fellowship is delivered in partnership with the State Library of NSW and provides an opportunity for a NSW First Nations artist, knowledge holder or creative practitioner to undertake creative research that will work towards a presentation outcome at the State Library of NSW.

The successful applicant receives $30,000 to conduct research and engage with the State Library collections, delving into subjects and materials from the Library’s NSW First Nations Collections. They will deliver a creative research project that engages the collection with a public outcome.

The Fellowship is open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who live and work in NSW, with the aim of supporting an artist at any stage of their career – emerging, mid-career and established – who has shown dedication and a high level of commitment to their practice.

Project Description

 Amala Groom’s project will involve remembering her mother’s Wiradyuri language and conducting research of written texts and resources in the State Library of NSW’s collection. This project will see the artist expand her performative practice outside of traditional art institutions and re-enliven ‘library’ spaces with language and the spoken word, presenting a compelling provocation for both herself as an artist and for the institution in the management, collection, documentation, and storage of live performance art.

About Amala Groom

Amala Groom is a Wiradyuri conceptual artist whose practice, as the performance of her cultural sovereignty, is informed and driven by First Nations epistemologies, ontologies and methodologies. Her work, a form of passionate activism, presents acute and incisive commentary on contemporary socio-political issues. Articulated across diverse media, Groom’s work often subverts and unsettles western iconographies to enunciate Aboriginal stories, experiences, and histories, and to interrogate and undermine the legacy of colonialism. Informed by extensive archival, legislative, and first-person research, Groom’s work is socially engaged, speaking truth to take a stand against hypocrisy, prejudice, violence and injustice.

Groom is a solo practitioner who works with her family, community, and extensive economic, cultural, political, legal and social networks to both inform, lead and drive her practice. Groom works collaboratively with individuals and groups on a project-by-project basis.

Supported by the Australia Council for the Arts, the Ian Potter Cultural Trust, Create NSW, and Arts OutWest, Groom recently conducted a residency at the British Museum with The Season; the cultural exchange between UK/Australia (2022). Recent awards include the Create NSW 21/22 Visual Arts Commissioning Grant for $100K (2022).

In 2021, Groom was the first visual artist to be a finalist in the NSW Women of the Year awards, was the inaugural Artist in Residence with the University of Technology Sydney, the Sydney Observatory, St Andrews College, and the Parramatta Artist Studio’s Open Digital Residency.

Image: Amala Groom at Parramatta Artists Studios Rydalmere Photography: Jacquie Manning