Paola Balla, The Mok Mok Cooking Show, 2016 - courtesy of the Koorie Heritage TrustA major exhibition that explores truth-telling through a First Nations lens, the Koorie Heritage Trust presents Affirmation, available online until Sunday 26 July 2020.

First Nations people, their stories and images have been obscured and manipulated throughout history. Affirmation empowers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to tell their own stories, capture their own truths, and express themselves through their own lens.

Bringing together some of Victoria’s most exciting multi-disciplinary Indigenous photographers, Paola Balla (Wemba Wemba, Gunditjmara), Deanne Gilson (Wadawurrung), Tashara Roberts and Pierra Van Sparkes (Pibbulman), each artist will explore the concept of truth in the context of place, ancestral identity and cultural pride.

Paola Balla is an artist, curator, writer, and lecturer. She is a Wemba-Wemba & Gunditjmara woman. She is a PhD Candidate at Victoria University where she is the inaugural Lisa Bellear Indigenous Research Scholar (2016-2020).

Her practice-led research situates the ways Aboriginal women artists and activists/protectors disrupt artistic terra nullius by speaking back and ‘blak’ to patriarchal and colonial narratives. Her work is informed by matriarchy, family, Country, and the lived experiences and relationality of Koorie identity.

Balla’s powerful Mok Mok series enacts a version of Mok Mok in performative photography – she is a woman; both spiritual and physical, powerful, free and fearless. “As Aboriginal women, we are at the intersection of colonial injuries including our gender/s, race, class and social positioning,” says Balla.

“By subverting various forms of art and resistance we create and recreate strategies to respond and express ‘survivance,’ healing and daily acts of resistance and repair.”

Deanne Gilson is a proud Wadawurrung woman of Aboriginal and Australian/English descent. An award-winning multi-media visual artist, with a practice spanning thirty-five years, Deanne is also the daughter of Aunty Marlene Gilson, a painter, with her own award-winning art practice.

Deanne is currently undertaking a PhD looking at the objectification of Aboriginal women by the male colonial gaze and how this has affected Aboriginal women and what was known as traditional women’s business. Her recent artworks look at the colonial disruption of loss of family, culture, language and traditional women’s practices and how this continues to impact Aboriginal women today.

“My artwork aims to show the history of place and memory, as this is part of my DNA,” says Gilson. “It acts as a tool to bring back women’s business, the importance of passing down traditional marks and performing ceremonies, along with showing the brutal actions of the colonial men, who abused all of my women.”

“Not one of them escaped the actions of what followed on from the first fleet. I am taking back my strength, performing ceremony through my art practice and keeping my culture alive today. I am a proud Wadawurrung woman and challenging those that didn’t want us to exist.”

Tashara Roberts is a contemporary Indigenous conceptual artist whose practice includes photography, moving image, installation, mixed media, painting, sculpture and jewellery. She has completed a certificate in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Art and a Bachelor of Creative Arts.

Tashara’s work is sometimes subversive and politically charged; she uses visual culture to explore cultural and societal issues. Her multi-disciplinary practice often explores her Aboriginal heritage and/or shows the viewer what it is like looking at the world through her eyes.

Pierra Van Sparkes is a Kulin country based Pibbulman Noongar artist. Her work is inspired by the shared history, feelings and encounters that shape lived experiences of Aboriginality amidst manifold blak identities. Working with photography, video projection and digital media, Pierra interrogates the mythscapes that inform notions of Indigenous authenticity, settler-colonial supremacy and the modes in which they manifest.

Affirmation is available to view online until until Sunday 26 July 2020. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Paola Balla, The Mok Mok Cooking Show, 2016 (detail) – courtesy of the Koorie Heritage Trust