Neva-gu dyugurpa, From West Coast to City Centre

About the exhibition

By Jayda Wilson

[(re)telling, (re)memory, (re)archiving]

our flesh and blood are testimonies to ancestral mastery
testimonies to blood memory, memory unseen
tut if you look closely at the in betweens of our sovereign skin
you’ll witness blood oozing the reign of our being

Catalogue essay

An Aboriginal Life: Neva and Jayda Wilson

Jayda Wilson has tracked down a 45-minute documentary entitled From West Coast to City Centre: An Aboriginal Life History, made by a Japanese film crew from Osaka in 1998.  The film, held at National Museum of Ethnology, Japan, is about Nana Neva (Wilson) – our beautiful matriarch who sadly passed away in 2016 surrounded by the love of her big family. Growing up poor, cameras were a luxury item we didn’t possess to tell our stories and self-represent in the ethnographic archive.

I am a proud Wirangu, Gugada and Larrakia Film and Media Producer. I am passionate and focused on producing and developing First Nations stories in all art forms. Jayda is my cousin. She came across the film From West Coast to City Centre: An Aboriginal Life History through her research, which I believe follows our Nana’s work including the decades Nana Neva spent researching and collating Gugada and Wirangu Wilson’s family history at the South Australian Museum. Neva-gu dyugurpa, From West Coast to City Centre testifies to the intergenerational yearning Neva, Jayda and I share to not only preserve, but (re)tell our family histories on our terms.

First Nations cultures in Australia have preserved an oral history that is passed down through generations. The primitivist depictions of our peoples in the colonial archive have been documented and maintained through the white lens of colonisers. Since colonization we have endured the effects of disadvantage and displacement in our lives as a direct result of Australia’s cruel and barbarous history towards our people. Whether that be our health, education, legal systems, housing, the arts and the list goes on. Included in this is the poor access to our own records in the colonial archive, whether we’re seeking access to this in Australia or overseas.

Our records in cultural institutions are still largely administered by non-Aboriginal people. The accessibility of these films is often mired in the sadness (and indignity?) of having to jump through hoops and ask for permission to our own family history held in the archives. From my experience the rates that are charged for accessing film archives can be enormous, let alone the time it can take. Not only are we required to seek permission to access the film, we also need permission to screen the film each time it’s played, and often have to pay a screening fee each time. I have a sickening feeling each time I have to ask for permission and pay a fee for access to my family history. When we do attain these archives this assists us greatly to continue to practice our culture through language, song, dance and more. Strangely no one in our family had access to this documentary before now and eventually, this film was forgotten about. From West Coast to City Centre: An Aboriginal Life History has never received a screening in Australia.

As First Nations peoples we are now in a position to capture and record our own stories using modern technology including the medium of film. In Neva-gu dyugurpa, From West Coast to City Centre Jayda explores ideologies of blood memory and sovereignty through sound, photography and print. Through these mediums the work reflects truth telling, including both our harsh and brutal history in this country, and also the strength and empowerment of using our old archive materials to showcase our forgotten Gugada and Wirangu language. The work highlights and reflects the importance of recording our own stories through our lenses and lived experiences. We are the oldest living culture in the world and we are still, I believe, to be scraping the surface of telling our unique stories and history.

Neva-gu dyugurpa, From West Coast to City Centre embodies truth telling, language revitalization, and family history preservation. Jayda’s practice reflects generations of lived experience, (re)living strong Gugada and Wirangu womens resilience. Jayda amplifies Nana Neva’s voice and helps us to sustain our strong culture for generations to come.

Nara Wilson
Wirangu, Gugada and Larrakia Film and Media Producer

Read full essay +

Meet the artists & curators

Jayda Wilson is a proud Gugada and Wirangu emerging artist living and working on unceded Kaurna Yarta. Wilson’s practice is a journey to reclaiming their mother tongue through the (re)telling of family history with their visual practice acting as a site for (re)memory and (re)archiving. By working in mediums of sound and print they ground themselves culturally and affirm sovereignty through Gugada and Wirangu wangga, embedded in country on the Far West Coast of South Australia.