Ngarrindjeri people

Australia 1947 – 2011

Sowing seeds at nite 1990 Place made: Barmera, South Australia, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint on canvas

Dimensions: 88.0 h x 107.3 w cm unframed 101.7 h x 101.5 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased with Funds from the Moet & Chandon Australian Art Foundation, 1991
Accession No: NGA 91.728
Image rights: © Ian W. Abdulla
  • The impact of successive official policies towards Aboriginal Australians, including segregation and assimilation, wrought havoc on traditional customs, culture and language in areas such as the lower Murray River region of South Australia. For Ian Abdulla, growing up in this area meant that his family suffered the full impact of colonisation. However they maintained a relatively independent life, even though living on the outskirts of towns they often had to fend for themselves through fruit picking, collecting animal pelts and living off local bush tucker.

    The subjects of Abdulla’s paintings are autobiographical and reflect a fulfilling life despite being surrounded by adversity. The paintings are a colourful visual record of the oral and social history of the Riverine/Murray River region and encompass the gamut of life experiences, from mission life, hunting and fishing, to playing and working. This work is a scene that took place on Gerard Mission. Abdulla’s images are invariably accompanied by a text that sets the context for the scene depicted, which typically convey a sense of subdued optimism and satisfaction in the ability ‘to beat the odds’.

    Abdulla’s art career began in 1988 when he took up screenprinting, and he turned to painting the following year. In 1991 he was declared the South Australian Artist of the Year in recognition of his artistic achievements. Abdulla’s paintings speak for an entire section of Indigenous Australian society whose stories are little known.

    Franchesca Cubillo

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: collection highlights National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2010