Blak History Month

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following article may contain information of people who have passed.

This week, we’re not only celebrating NAIDOC Week but also the beginning of Blak History Month. Blak History Month is a time for the broader-Australian community to learn about and acknowledge the hidden history of this country and the significant acts and achievements of Indigenous Australians. It is a time to showcase the untold stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. For 2021, Blak History Month's theme is ‘Honouring our Artists.’ Over the month of July they will release daily profiles of First Nations artists, past and present, as a way of acknowledging their achievements and incredible contributions to this nation. This important theme recognises Indigenous arts as a fundamental part of culture and identity (Blak History Month, 2021).

Dancers performing as a part of Blak History Month at Southbank, Brisbane. Courtesy of Must Do Brisbane, 2020.

So far, through these beautiful daily profiles we have heard about, some of the incredible Indigenous artists include:

Dr Julie Dowling: an Indigenous visual artist that draws on diverse art traditions, including European portraiture and Christian icons, mural painting and Badimaya First Nation iconography. She was the first Indigenous woman to be selected for the Archibald Exhibition, the renowned Australian portraiture prize (Blak History Month, 2021).

Ngunbay Willie Brim: a Katjiraka man, Traditional Owner, cultural custodian, bush doctor and songman. Ngunbay is a self taught, multiskilled instrumentalist and conscious songwriter. Musically, he is best known as the frontman of legendary Indigenous reggae outfit Mantaka, who are listed in the Reggae Hall of Fame in Jamaica (Blak History Month, 2021).

Ngunbay Willie Brim. Courtesy of Blak History Month, 2021.

Lillian Crombie: a Pitjintjara/Yungkuntjara woman. She studied at NIDA, NAISDA and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in New York, and has gone on to become one of Australia’s leading actors. In 2019, Lillian was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award with the Equity Foundation for her contribution to the Arts, and, in 2020, she launched the Lillian Crombie's School of Dance and Drama, fulfilling a dream held since she was a teen (Blak History Month, 2021).

Isaac Yaama: a Pitjantjatjara man, known as the godfather of Central Desert Music. He was a singer, songwriter and guitarist and started his musical career in the 1960's as a member of Areyonga Desert Tigers. He later performed with his band the Pitjantjatjara Country Band, singing in Pitjantjatjara language (Blak History Month, 2021).

There are some wonderful events happening around the country to celebrate Blak History Month. The Brisbane City Council has come on board to create and share a number of events and exhibitions that this year are focussed upon the celebration of Indigenous arts. Here’s a couple that you’ll be able to get involved with all throughout July.

Kuta Meanjin Dreaming at The Sphere: Through this interactive experience, The Sphere will showcase First Nations History from the local Kelvin Grove area. This includes totems and the history of the Barrambin Country, on which the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) is situated (Brisbane City Council, 2021).

Indigenous Art Program: See Brisbane’s streets come alive with an exhibition of Aboriginal artworks in various places and spaces, including large-scale banners, light boxes and projections in Brisbane's laneways.

MURRILAND 2015 by Gordon Hookey. Courtesy of Brisbane City Council, 2021. 

Urban Dreaming Online Art Exhibition: Showcasing the talents of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. The exhibition runs until Friday the 16th of July, to view the online exhibition visit Inala Elders.

Blak History Month is an important time for education, particularly for the younger generation. Often the true history of this country is not taught and it is vital that young Australians grow up learning this history, learning about culture and language. The Blak History Month website provides some excellent resources which you can access here. SBS Learn also provides some excellent NAIDOC learning materials that can be utilized all year round. The resources are not only great for the classroom but for all Australians to gather a deeper understanding of Indigenous Australian history and culture. We hope that this month everyone takes the time to learn something new about First Nations history, culture, arts and people.