Naadohbii: To Draw Water

Nici Cumpston. Oh my Murray Darling, 2019. Adelaide, Kaurna Country, South Australia. Pigment inkjet print on vinyl.jpgOpening at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre – Melbourne Museum on Friday 23 September, Naadohbii: To Draw Water brings together contemporary First Peoples artwork from Turtle Island (Canada), Aotearoa (New Zealand), and First Peoples Nations from across Australia.

A First Peoples led curatorial partnership between Museums Victoria, Pataka Art + Museum and Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG-Qaumajuq), the exhibition features over 20 artists, including six from Australia, and presenting newly commissioned pieces, Naadohbii: To Draw Water illustrates solidarity between Indigenous nations across the globe around environmental, political, and cultural traditions and interconnected relationships to water.

Curators and artists from diverse communities across the three countries share international narratives and cultural connections surrounding water. These are expressed through cultural and multi-artistic disciplines including film, sound, painting, sculpture, print, photography, and textiles.

Kimberley Moulton, Yorta Yorta woman and Senior Curator First Peoples – South-eastern Australia Collections at Museums Victoria, is the lead curator from Australia.

“For First Peoples, our country of earth, sky, and water grounds us in our history, our identity and our futures and water is pertinent to the survival of all of three of these aspects to who we are,” said Moulton.

“The meeting of First Peoples artists from Australia, Aotearoa and Turtle Island brings together the multiple approaches to stories of freshwater and saltwater, to the movement of people and animal kin that rely on this resource and the harsh reality of ever-present dry riverbeds and receding shorelines.”

“The works in the exhibition generously share a strength of ongoing cultural practices and connection to water and asks people to reflect on their relationship to this important element to our lands and how we must all work to respect it,” said Moulton.

The exhibition is co-curated by Jaimie Isaac, formerly Winnipeg Art Gallery curator of Indigenous & Contemporary Art (now Chief Curator Art Gallery Greater Victoria, Canada), Ioana Gordon-Smith, formerly Curator at Pataka Art + Museum, and Reuben Friend, formerly Director Pataka Art + Museum (now General Manager Community and Partnerships Porirua City Council).

Naadohbii (NAH-DOH-BEY) is from the Anishinaabemowin language of the First Peoples of Canada and translates as to draw / seek water. The name was gifted by Elder Dr. Mary Courchene.

The curators found parallels between international Indigenous narratives surrounding water, and the transformative artistic and curatorial work presented in the exhibition has been led by an exchange between global First Peoples.

Naadohbii: To Draw Water considers the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, recognizing the power of art in enacting change.

The exhibition contributes to the international dialogue around water and our changing environment from an Indigenous perspective. Our world is profoundly linked to water in all forms for human and ecological survival. Water is sacred. Water is life.

Museums Victoria commissioned long-time collaborator Dr Vicki Couzens to create a Possum Skin Cloak for the exhibition. The cloak details the Kooyang (eel) story of her Country of the Western District of Victoria and has been acquired into Museums Victoria’s First Peoples collections.

The Melbourne Museum presentation of Naadohbii will also feature a Tasmanian First Peoples Canoe from the collection created by Uncle Rex Greeno, master First Peoples craftsman and cultural maker from Lutruwita (Tasmania). This will be the first time the canoe has been on display at Melbourne Museum.

Initiated and led by Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG- Qaumajuq), Naadohbii: To Draw Water is an international exchange and was the inaugural Indigenous Triennial for WAG. The exhibition opened in Canada in July 2021 and will tour to Melbourne in 2022 thanks to the generous support of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Australia Council for the Arts and Canada Council for the Arts.

“Water is a large body of knowledge and matter to draw upon and this exhibition will represent cross-cultural Indigenous multi-disciplinary artistic traditions and multi-vocal perspectives and multi-sensory experiences,” said Jaimie Isaac, formally Winnipeg Art Gallery curator of Indigenous & Contemporary Art (now Chief Curator Art Gallery Greater Victoria, Canada).

“The international curatorial team and the artistic production presented will broaden ideas and deepen our connection to water. With the rising sea levels, changing waterways, addressing clean water accessibility to highlighting traditional cultural connections to water – exploring these concepts through contemporary art is appropriate to the current times we live within.”

Naadohbii: To Draw Water
Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre – Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson Street, Carlton
Exhibition: 23 September 2022 – 26 March 2023
Included with Museum Entry

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Nici Cumpston. Oh my Murray Darling, 2019. Adelaide, Kaurna Country, South Australia. Pigment ink jet print on vinyl