Enlarge 1 / 1

Damien SHEN

Ngarrindjeri people

Adelaide, South Australia 1976

Ventral aspect of a male #1 2014
Collection Title: On the Fabric of the Ngarrindjeri Body: Volume II
Place made: Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Materials & Technique: photographs, pigment inkjet print Support: Giclee print on Kodak lustre paper

Dimensions: 29.7 h x 22.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2016
Accession No: NGA 2016.315.2
  • Purchased 2016

Damien Shen is of Ngarrindjeri and Chinese descent and draws on this rich cultural heritage to create works of cultural and personal meaning. As part of this collaborative series with photographer Richard Lyons, Shen acquired knowledge of traditional Ngarrindjeri body designs from his uncle, Ngarrindjeri elder, Uncle Moogy (Major Sumner). The photographic documentation of this event has great significance for the wider community's understanding of Ngarrindjeri culture; the body painting shown here has not been practiced or passed down for generations. Shen's series includes images of Uncle Moogy being painted and then of himself and his uncle adopting a series of performative poses in a photographic studio. Shen noted that 'This was the first time that I personally had been painted up in the Ngarrindjeri way… I felt empowered through this process of learning and spending time with my elder'. For Shen, these images together show 'the continued fight to keep our culture alive within a man-made setting' and indicate some of the broad range of uses photography serves for contemporary Indigenous artists.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra