COMMENT by STEVE BROWN
I recently took part in a discussion about the chances of Alice Springs becoming the home of the National Indigenous Culture Centre.
It will be a project of imagination and scale that captures the hearts and minds of Australians, becomes part of the Australian psyche, a reference to just who we are. And, of course, it would be a must for our international visitors.
The causes of national reconciliation and the mooted referendum on recognition present an enormous context for this project, as a strong and lasting symbol of culture, recognition and eventually – with the help of those – reconciliation.
The building itself must be a structure of national significance. If a tin shed is in the back of your mind, think of the Guggenheim museums in New York (top), the one in Bilbao (centre) that turned a rather mundane industrial city into a world destination, and the one planned for Abu Dhabi (bottom – yep, what looks like ants are people).
Of course we can’t match the scale of those, but given that we are the place where indigenous culture is alive and well, and makes up a third of our society, this centre should match the National Gallery of Arts, the National Library and the National Museum of Australia – all of them clustered in sterile Canberra.
Working towards or accepting anything less would be devaluing the significance of both the moment and the depth of meaning a national indigenous centre would hold for the nation.
Young Aboriginal people would find long term, life fulfilling employment for generations, as participants in living cultural presentations, and being involved in the preservation and exhibition of artworks. The whole community needs to embrace the concept with a great deal of energy, passion and enthusiasm.
Where should it be? What should be the overall concept? This project is far too big for these questions to be hived off to and dominated by an elite few. Direction must come from not only from right across our Aboriginal community, but also from across the wider community as we all will live with the success of this project – or its failure.
Discussion must be transparent. Also, it’s urgent. There are many other interests vying for this opportunity. It will take an enormous amount of clever lobbying.
It’s time to hear some noise. Come up with some concepts. Set out to capture the national imagination, the national attention, and you don’t do that with mediocrity.
COMMENT by STEVE BROWN