Robert CAMPBELL JNR, Aboriginal embassy. Enlarge 1 /1


Ngaku people

Australia 1944 – 1993

  • The Philippines 1988

Aboriginal embassy. 1986 Place made: Kempsey, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint on canvas

Dimensions: 88.0 h x 107.3 w cm framed (overall) 93.3 h x 122.5 w x 6.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1987
Accession No: NGA 87.1555
Image rights: Courtesy of Rolsyn Oxley9 Gallery

Robert Campbell Jnr commemorates the establishment in 1972 of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, erected on the grounds of Parliament House in Canberra to draw public attention to the dispossession of indigenous Australians and the denial of their sovereign rights to land. The Tent Embassy made the point that Aboriginal people continued to be treated as foreigners in their own country.

The Embassy assisted in the changes to official policy regarding the issue of Aboriginal land rights. The present Tent Embassy was erected in 1992 on the same site in front of Old Parliament House.

The sequential narrative in the painting is characteristic of Campbell’s work. The red tie-like oesophagus shape symbolises the spirit in all living beings. The top section of the painting depicts the protagonists and their supporters and below they are shown being arrested. The picture surface is animated by rich decoration similar to the fine engravings on Aboriginal shields, clubs and boomerangs of south-eastern Australia.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra