2019 Winter Graduate Colloquium

RUIAC Graduate Researcher Winter Colloquium

Tutorial Rooms, Elizabeth Murdoch Building

Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, Southbank, The University of Melbourne


Wednesday 28 August

Tutorial Room 4

9.00am – 9.30am Coffee and tea in lounge, EMB, level 2

Session 1

Tutorial room 4, EMB level 2


Tiriki Onus (PhD IAC)

Biganga (Possum Skin Cloak), Mapping pathways back to knowing.

The Biganga (possum skin cloak) is one of the most iconic objects held in museum collections despite their scarcity – few examples remain.  They have been the focus of a renaissance of art and identity amongst Aboriginal people of the south east of Australia. For over 2000 generations, the Biganga has been one of the most significant pieces of culture and identity – wearable culture that educated, protected, sustained and validated. It was given to you at birth, and as you grew, it also grew. More panels would be added as required, all the time incising your clan designs and stories into the skin of the cloak with a scribe, mapping our connection to country and place. For ceremony Biganga were turned inside-out so that all who saw would know the country and stories one was custodian for and finally when we died, we were wrapped in our cloaks and buried. Biganga were a constant, following us from birth, to death and into the next life. Through a process of immersion in family histories, ethnographic texts and a deep, introspective autoethnography, the process of reclaiming and repatriating the technologies and histories of Biganga making within the Onus family will be explored. This will involve an approach of reconnecting with the materiality of Country and place as well as an investigation of how the resources that have always persisted within Country can still be accessed and exploited within the “occupied space” of post-invasion Australia.

How does the creation of Biganga contribute to my safety and identity as a Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Wurrung man and father? Over the last three generations how have my family contributed to the survival and revival of cultural practice in the broader community? How can the knowledges that have existed in this country for thousands of generations be safely repatriated back to their countries and people? What technologies and materials can be reclaimed in a practice that seeks to repatriate knowledges away?

10.00 -10.30am

James Howard (PhD IAC)

Tuning into Country

Discussions around country, as defined by indigenous social frameworks, are understood as a (physical) place imbued with sentience. Underscored with spiritual resonance, country acts as a mnemonic for Dreamtime stories, song, ritual, and dance. The aim of this research is to identify the means by which connections to country can be strengthened, both on- and off-country, as well as in urbanised settings. Through the research, these methodologies will be developed from my own standpoint as an indigenous man, several generations disconnected from my cultural heritage, as well as being a musician and sound producer with an intimate relationship to song, sound, and the soundscapes that surrounds us. This presentation follows a month of fieldwork in the North-Central Kimberley, in Western Australia, where I engaged with local cultural practitioners discussing song and country. The talk will cover key events taking place in the field, developments in my research during this time, and my own personal reflections.

10:30 – 11:30 Break (coffee/tea in lounge, EMB) while committee meetings are held

Committee meetings

Tutorial Room 5, EMB level 3


Session 2

Tutorial room 4, EMB level 2


Anita Asaasira (PhD Ethnomusicology)

Contribution of Archival Sound Recordings to the Creation of a National Musical Identity Among Urban Youth Musicians in Kampala, Uganda

Several scholars have advocated for archives to focus on innovative, collaborative partnerships that connect communities to their cultural heritage materials to provide meaningful access beyond the restricting walls of the archive (Landau 2012: Brinkhurst 2012; Lobley 2015; Thram 2015). This proactive approach to providing access is especially relevant to the Ugandan context where the only archive with historical recordings of Uganda’s musical heritage is located within the restrictive walls of a university library. It is therefore only accessible to students, staff, and researchers. Besides, most of the would-be users are unaware of the archive’s existence, let alone the materials in its custody. It was therefore the goal of this project to bridge this gap by disseminating sound recordings to users who would otherwise have no access to the archive, particularly urban youth musicians in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Of particular interest to this study is the fact that these musicians have been engaging in discussions about what Uganda’s national music ‘sound’ is or should be. As a result, there seems to be a consensus that this ‘sound’ needs to be rooted in the country’s rich traditional musical heritage. To this end, current musical practices are increasingly focusing on fusing traditional and contemporary music forms to create a blend of music that is ‘unique’ to Uganda.

This study investigates the potential of archival sound recordings of Uganda’s musical heritage in contributing to this practice of creating and articulating a Ugandan national musical identity. It presents and analyses the process and outcome of disseminating archival sound recordings to selected urban youth musicians in Kampala. The researcher argues that engaging with these recordings in creative processes of reinterpretation reveals the potential value of such legacy materials as sources of knowledge and inspiration for contemporary urban youth musician in Kampala. The study also shows how meaningful access to archival sound recordings enabled participating musicians to rediscover and reclaim their musical heritage using resources that were not previously available to them.


12.00- 12.30

Rita Seumanutafa (PhD Ethnomusicology)


The lyrical composition of Pese o le Faaulufalega (Songs for a Church Opening Event)

This paper looks at the lyrical composition of pese o le faaulufalega (songs for a church opening event), examining the influences that guide fatupese (composers) when composing pese (song) lyrics.  In Samoan thinking, songs that are considered to be well-written, good, or pleasing are those that captivate the audience. Pese must acknowledge Samoan history, ancestral lineage, and also capture the essence of faasamoa (Samoan culture) in order to be well-received, appreciated and enjoyed by the listener. Previous scholarship of Samoan music posits musical composition methods as something that cannot be articulated or described in detail by fatupese. In this current study, a focus on the link between pese o le faaulufalega and lauga fa’asamoa (Samoan oratory), as well as the function and power of the spoken word, will reveal an appreciation of a highly-organised and structured form of indigenous lyrical composition. Drawing on discussions with Samoan fatupese (composers) and music practitioners, unpublished song lyrics, as well as my own experiential knowledge, this study provides an insider’s perspective of the composition of pese lyrics.


Andrew Dowding (PhD IAC)



Day 1 end





Thursday 29 August

Tutorial Room 4, EMB Level 2


9.00am – 9.30am Coffee and tea in lounge, EMB, level 2

Session 1

Tutorial room 4, EMB level 2


John Wayne Parsons (PhD IAC)

Title TBC

10.00 -10.30am

Fred Gesha (MFA IAC) 

Title TBC

10.30- 11.30 Break (coffee/tea in lounge, EMB) while committee meetings are held

Committee meeting

Tutorial Room 5, EMB level 3


Ngardarb Riches (PhD CFI)

Healing through the arts, my art

Many issues effect the health and well-being of the Indigenous populations of Australia. For over a decade we have experienced many strategies implemented by governments to address our health and well-being. It has been recognised that new approaches are needed because the Aboriginal community are seeking culturally appropriate services. We have had enough. This thesis will describe my journey and the journey of my people described through art. It is a story of resilience, of strength and of drawing from our culture and kinship structures to interrupt the intergenerational trauma that continues to impact on our people. I use my art to describe my journey as I write this thesis, as art is the way I best express my thoughts, my feelings and my own journey of healing. This research demonstrates the importance of applying an Indigenous lens in developing different approaches to healing the intergenerational trauma experienced by Aboriginal people, by exploring the questions: what is meant by healing in relation to arts practices in the Australian Aboriginal context? What are the foundations of my healing through art practices? How does my artwork and my art teaching heal in my community? And what can others learn from my art practice and its relationship to healing?




Nicole Paul (MFA IAC)


Uniting mentorship and artmaking, Flora entwines Indigenous art practices and knowledges from Canada and Australia. Portraits of native plants endemic to each country are created with Canadian Indigenous beading techniques and materials, combined also with Australian materials; chimeras of beauty and knowledge from both countries’ Indigenous knowledges.
Connecting me to country both home and abroad, Flora has become a way to investigate, deepen and understand my identity as a Cree-Métis woman while investigating the role, importance and complexities that occur between identity and place.

Stemming from experiences of learning traditional functions of native plants and Indigenous arts practices I create visual portrayals of these knowledge systems with two-string beading techniques, Miyuki Delica seed beads, the bark of melaleuca quinquenervia (paperbark) and other materials. This work focuses on Indigenous plant knowledge, identity formation and the language which surrounds them. I ask questions surrounding my connection to country and the idea of ‘place’ or ‘country’ as a spiritual location or self-reflective process which creates the roots of identity, rather than being solely defined by a fixed geographical location.

In an effort to resist conforming to post-colonial ideas surrounding identity and authenticity I am engaging both pre- and post-colonial methods of making as a mechanism for resistance against the erasure of cultural arts practices, rejecting forced stereotypes dictated by Western notions surrounding Indigeneity.


1.00-1.30 Committee meeting
Day 2 end