Installation view of N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM and Sarah Lynn Rees’s work <em>Gathering Space: Ngargee Djeembana</em> 2021 on display as part of the <em>Melbourne Now</em> exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne from 24 March – 20 August 2023. Image: Tom Ross

N’arweet Carolyn Briggs AM and Sarah Lynn Rees

N’arweet Carolyn Briggs AM
(Boonwurrung b. 1949. Lives and works in Melbourne)
Sarah Lynn Rees
(Palawa b. 1990. Lives and works in Melbourne)

Gathering Space: Ngargee Djeembana was developed by Senior Boonwurrung Elder N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM and Palawa built environment practitioner Sarah Lynn Rees. It was originally commissioned by the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne, as part of the major 2021–22 exhibition Who’s Afraid of Public Space?

The work brings together First Nations philosophical knowledge, design thinking and the built environment to answer the question: ‘If our public spaces were designed to represent the identity of Country through their materials, what would those materials be?’

Ngargee reflects the coming together of the visual arts, performance, story and dance’, Briggs explains in a research document on the work. ‘It is focused upon bringing people together for cultural practice, ceremony and performance, giving us a place where we can create and find our own narratives.’

The result is a topographical installation that reflects on the character and composition of public spaces and the material identity of Country across Victoria. More than fifty-five materials feature – from timber, stone and minerals to sand, water and glass – either in their raw form or in the refined form they take within the built environment. Visitors are encouraged to ask themselves not only upon whose Country they are standing, but also from whose Country are the buildings around us made?

N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM is founding chair of the Boonwurrung Land and Sea Council and custodian of the Yalukit Willam in Birrarung-ga. She is an Indigenous Research Fellow in the Wominjeka Djeembana Indigenous research lab at MADA’s Faculty of Art, Monash University.

Sarah Lynn Rees is an associate and lead Indigenous advisor at Jackson Clements Burrows Architects, a lecturer at Monash University, and program advisor and curator of the BLAKitecture series for MPavilion. She is a director of Parlour: Gender, Equity, Architecture, a member of the Victorian Design Review Panel for the Office of the Victorian Government Architect, and co-chair of the Australian Institute of Architects First Nations Advisory Working Group.