Vernon Ah Kee
Kuku Yalanji/Yidinyi/Waanyi born 1967
Ideas of Barak 2010-11
charcoal on canvas; 5 channel video installation
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 2011
© Vernon Ah Kee

Vernon Ah Kee

The Barak Commissions

Kuku Yalanji/Waanji/Koko Berrin/Yidindji/Gugu Yimithirr born 1967

Ideas of Barak
2011 Brisbane, Queensland
charcoal on canvas, video installation
Felton Bequest 2011

‘For Aboriginal people, especially those interested in art, William Barak is someone who seems far-away: a distant idea of Aboriginal art. And were it not for the works he left and photographs of him, his legacy would be even more removed, consigned to historical record, anecdote or hearsay, like Bennelong or Pemulwuy. Barak, Tommy McRae and Mickey of Ulladulla have a unique position in terms of Australian art: there was really no-one before them. It could be argued that these three men established the beginnings of what we generally think of as Aboriginal art, i.e. art for the ‘white box’, but they approach us more as curiosities of the past.’ Vernon Ah Kee 2010

Ideas of Barak comprises, in three parts, an audio–visual presentation of ideas around Barak’s country, his birthplace at Brushy Creek near present-day Croydon and Coranderrk where he lived, a second audio–visual component, in five channel video, is an artists’ discussion of the compelling story of Barak, and finally, Ah Kee’s constructed idea of Barak, a large charcoal portrait; a moving personal reflection of this complex and pivotal Wurundjeri man.