Megan Cope’s work is featured in Sovereignty focuses on contemporary art of First Nations peoples of South East Australia, alongside keynote historical works, to explore culturally and linguistically diverse narratives of self-determination, identity, sovereignty and resistance.
Curators Paola Balla and Max Delany take the example of William Barak (c.1824–1903) as a model – in particular Barak’s role as an artist, activist, leader, diplomat and translator. The exhibition presents the vibrant and diverse visual art and culture of the continuous and distinct nations, language groups and communities of Victoria’s sovereign, Indigenous peoples.
Bringing together new commissions, recent and historical works by over thirty artists, Sovereignty is structured around a set of practices and relationships in which art and society, community and family, history and politics are inextricably connected. A diverse range of discursive and thematic contexts are elaborated: the celebration and assertion of cultural identity and resistance; the significance and inter-connectedness of Country, people and place; the renewal and re-inscription of cultural languages and practices; the importance of matriarchal culture and wisdom; the dynamic relations between activism and aesthetics; and a playfulness with language and signs in contemporary society.
Sovereignty provides an opportunity to engage with critical historical and contemporary issues in Australian society. The exhibition takes place against a backdrop of cultural, political and historical debates related to questions of colonialism and de-colonisation, constitutional recognition, sovereignty and treaty.