___________ BIENNALE OF SYDNEY : NIRIN ____________

The Sydney Biennale extends the impact of the ‘black lives matter’ protests around the world by showcasing the plight, authority and cultural dispossession of First Nations people, as well as giving voice to the marginalisation of minorities in society.



Brook Andrew artistic director


The 22nd Biennale of Sydney…is open to the public with – extended dates between

June and September 2020.



Titled NIRIN – “edge” in Wiradjuri, the language of his mother’s people

– it will showcase 98 artists, creatives and collectives from 47 countries.

As the title underlines, NIRIN is about putting art from the edge at the centre, or “showing how all those edges come together to make a centre”, as Andrew puts it. Many of the artists are “people of colour, gay, queer or non-binary”. Nor are all artists.


Lafortune Felix, Born 1933 in Pont-Sondé, Haiti – Died 2016 in St. Marc, Haiti, Courtesy Galerie, Nader, Pétion-Ville, Haiti


Museum of Contemporary Art

Artistic Director Brook Andrew
The urgent states of our contemporary lives are laden with unresolved past anxieties and hidden layers of the supernatural. NIRIN is about to expose this, demonstrating that artists and creatives have the power to resolve, heal, dismember and imagine futures of transformation for re-setting the world. Sovereignty is at the centre of these actions, and shines a light on environments in shadow. I hope that NIRIN gathers life forces of integrity to push through often impenetrable confusion.

Optimism from chaos drives artists in NIRIN to resolve the often hidden or ignored urgency surrounding contemporary life.


It’s taken 47 years and 22 iterations, but the Biennale has finally embraced the idea of an Indigenous exhibition. 

Nirin seeks to gather up all that energy displaced to the margins and bring it to the centre for a concerted show of force. Yet the atmosphere is primarily one of celebration rather than insurrection.
Artistic director Brook Andrew said he couldn’t wait to welcome visitors back to the festival, which managed to open for just a week before being shut down on March 24.

Tony Albert in collaboration with Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network, Do Not Frack the NT, 2020, installation view, 22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, house paint on banner, image courtesy the artist and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia © the artist, photograph: Ken Leanfore



The inaugural Biennale of Sydney was held in 1973 as part of the opening celebrations of the Sydney Opera House. 

Initiated by Founding Governor Franco Belgiorno-Nettis and supported by Founding Patrons Transfield Holdings, the Biennale of Sydney was the first exhibition of its kind to be established in the Asia-Pacific region.

Suohpanterror (English: Lassoterror) / Anonymous Sami collective founded in 2012 in Sameland, Scandinavia; Live and work in different countries in Scandinavia. Image: Suohpanterror Don’t Worry

Alongside the Venice and São Paulo biennales and documenta, it is one of the longest running periodic exhibitions around the globe.

Since its inception in 1973, the Biennale of Sydney has showcased the work of nearly 1,800 artists from more than 100 countries and holds an important place on both the national and international stage.

The Biennale provides a platform for art and ideas and is recognised for commissioning and presenting innovative, thought-provoking art from Australia and around the globe.


Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams

(Born 1952 in Inturtjanu (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands), Australia, Died 2019 in Alice Springs, Australia, Pitjantjatjara).

Sammy Dodd and Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams in front of Sammy’s truck, Photograph: Jackson Lee. Courtesy the artist and Mimili Maku Arts

The artist, Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams, died late last year before he could fulfil his commitments to the Biennale. His contributions, which have been completed by his widow and a friend, are a series of large protest banners featuring the artist’s words written in Pitjantjatjara.

This project was executed after the artist’s passing by his collective Mimili Maku Arts led by Tuppy Ngintja Goodwin and Sammy Dodd. All spears were made by Sammy Dodd.

Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams, Tuppy Ngintja Goodwin, Sammy Dodd and the artists of Mimili Maku Arts, Kulilaya munu nintiriwa (Listen and learn), 2020


Tuppy Ngintja Goodwin: Born 1952 in Palmer Creek, Australia, Lives and works in Mimili (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands), Australia, Pitjantjatjara, Arrernte

Sammy Dodd: Born 1948 on Henbury Station, Australia, Lives and works in Mimili (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands), Australia, Pitjantjatjara

Our Tjukurpa Law is all-encompassing. It was always intended to be eternal, but we know it is at risk. This is why I am documenting it now. I want to raise people’s consciousness. I want us to be acknowledged by the wider society and the government. I am hoping to start a movement of new awareness.”

Filling the space of the entrance court of the Art Gallery of New South Wales is Kulilaya munu nintiriwa (Listen and learn), 2020 an installation of banners bearing words and images from Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams’ personal archive, projecting his belief in the power of words to effect change.  Kunmanara was planning a political protest piece for the Biennale before his passing in March 2019. The project was carried forward by his widow Tuppy Ngintja Goodwin, his lifelong friend and collaborator Sammy Dodd, and his community.

Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams, Hand-written notes of the artist (selected by Tuppy Ngintja Goodwin and Sammy Dodd); and Experiments on found maps, 2012-2019. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Art Gallery of New South Wales. Presented at the Biennale of Sydney with generous assistance from Australia Council for the Arts and Fondation Opale. Courtesy Mimili Maku Arts. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.

Language was a central aspect of Kunmanara’s life and work as an artist, orator and activist. The banners shown were brought back to Country, gathering marks of the land, of being read, of being carried forward into the next generation.

Inside the old courts, a display of selected materials from Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams’ archive of writings, notes and sketches gives insight into his richly varied and dynamic processes, showcasing some of the source material for his powerful words in Kulilaya munu nintiriwa (Listen and learn). A museum edition of his posthumously published book Kulinmaya! Keep listening, everybody! (2019) speaks to his communities’ desire to keep teaching his messages and pass on knowledge to future generations.

An important part of Kunmanara’s work is the use of drawing and writing on found maps and appropriated Australia Post bags, reversing dominant chains of communication.

Writing of the first time he used a mailbag, Kunmanara said: ‘I envisaged the mailbag being posted along on a journey, just exactly like a letter that has been written and then read. And yes, so I sent it out into the world with a message on it from me and my family.’

What is land?
It belongs to the old men and the old women.
Understand that this whole continent is sacred land, Belonging to the senior
men and women.

Listen. This whole continent is filled with the power of the Dreaming.
It is our land.
Do you understand me?”
Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams, Kulinmaya! – Museum Edition (3/3), 2019, book in dust-jacket sewn from Australia Post mailbag; five screenprints on found maps printed 2017. Proposed acquisition, AGNSW.Photograph: Zan Wimberley: Art Gallery NSW

Nyaa Manta, 2016 by Kunmanara is considered particularly significant by his community and links to the dynamic installation of banners in the entrance court, which pays tribute to the powerful messages he conveyed through his work around land, law, culture, and the passing on of knowledge. It also forms the final image in his book Kulinmaya! Keep listening, everybody! As a concluding message it projects Kunmanara’s longstanding desire to share knowledge and raise consciousness, finishing with the question ‘Do you understand me?’

Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams was a political activist, cultural leader and ngangkari (traditional healer). He proudly shared and protected the knowledge and duties given to him through his culture. In his art practice, he addressed issues including governance, sustainable land management and the protection of sacred heritage sites.

As one of the founding members of Mimili Maku Arts on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, his vision was to create more agency for Anangu artists, to create potent platforms for their voices to be heard.

Kulilaya munu nintiriwa (Listen and learn), 2020 is commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous assistance from Fondation Opale

Selected archive materials and Nyaa Manta, 2016 presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with generous assistance from Fondation Opale

Featured image: Some of the participating Mimili Maku Artists in Mimili Community. Photograph: Meg Hansen

Text: Biennale of Sydney



Born 1980 in Hokkaido, Japan
Lives and works in Hokkaido

Mayunkiki is a member of ’Marewrew’, a women’s vocal group whose activities centre around the rebirth and passing on of the traditional Ainu song Upopo – a practice rooted in rhythmical patterns and the signature style of singing in a natural trance-like chorus.

The Ainu people became oppressed after a pioneering phase in Hokkaido, Japan beginning in the 19th century, which saw harsh conditions for them under Japanese law.

Because of this, in my grandparent’s generation, many Ainu people stopped practicing their culture and customs, with many Ainu families deciding not to pass these traditions onto their children.

Ainu language is endangered and needs to be protected.

Text Biennale of Sydney

Mayunkiki with Sinuye in ethnic clothes of Ainu, 2018. Photograph: Hiroshi Ikeda


Andre Eugene: Atis Rezistans

Andre Eugene, Born 1959 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Lives and Works in Port-au-Prince, Photograph: Zan Wimberley

Andre Eugene was born in downtown Port-au-Prince in 1959. He is a leading figure in the artists’ collective known as Atis Rezistans, and a broader movement known as the Sculptors of Grand Rue.
Andre Eugene is the co-director of the Ghetto Biennale, which has been held in Port-au-Prince since 2009. Eugene’s work appropriates and repurposes 21st century consumer detritus, often dumped on Haiti, into fetish effigies with an apocalyptic MTV futuristic vision.
“My piece is called Life & Death, because from the moment you are born you are sucking on the breast of death. This is signified by the spirit Gede Zozo (Penis), which in a way represents how the coffin gives the whole body a place of rest.
The motivation behind my work is to change the situation for life and art in Haiti, and for the rest of the world to understand that Vodou is the soul of the people in Haiti.

Text: Biennale of Sydney

Short video of Artis Rezistans Haiti


Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian, I Prefer Talking to Doctors About Something Else, 2020. Photograph: Emily McTaggart, Biennale of Sydney.

Presented by Powerhouse Museum as part of NIRIN WIR, the 22nd Biennale of Sydney

Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian

Dubai-based artists Ramin, Rokni and Hesam’s collaborative work is created using artefacts from the Powerhouse Museum’s collection.

Incorporating and disorganising objects, the artists make a sweeping arc across themes of grief, the body and healing. The installation also includes video work by Javad Azimi and Hamid Hosseini.

Ramin Haerizadeh, Born 1975 in Tehran, Iran. Rokni Haerizadeh, Born 1978 in Tehran, Iran. Hesam Rahmanian, Born 1980 in Knoxville, United States. The three artists live and work in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.


Misheck Masamvu

Born 1980 Mutare, Zimbabwe
Lives and works in Harare, Zimbabwe, and Johannesburg, South Africa

Working predominantly as a painter and sculptor, Misheck Masamvu describes his works as ‘mutants’ that oscillate between abstraction and figuration. Masamvu’s practice is a battle against the forced ideology of government and the breakdown of the pursuit of humanity. His works are understood as marks of existence, pointing not only to the realities of his lived experience but also to mental and psychological space, where each layer of paint, or brush stroke on the canvas proposes a search to resolve conflicted experiences or decisions.

Masamvu produced the works in different parts of the world, including Kenya, South Africa and Germany, and they form part of his nomadic project.

Misheck Masamvu Therapy Lounge
For Masamvu, the true self can only be found by placing oneself in the unfamiliar. In purposely becoming a foreigner, the artist is able to gain new perspectives and self-knowledge, adding to his understanding of the world.

Text Biennale of Sydney


Vanessa Inkamala, Homeless on my Homeland, 2018-19


ltja Ntjarra / Many Hands Art Centre

Founded in 2004 in Mparntwe, Northern Territory, Australia

We want to introduce the beautiful landscape of the Northern Territory to people in urban environments.

At the same time, we want to raise awareness about the issues we are facing. We feel that there is a lack of consultation with traditional owners. If the authorities listened to us then they would support us with housing issues for example, rather than investing in mining on our country, which we strongly object to.

The works we present at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney are to let people know about our country and our lives.

Mervyn Rubuntja, senior artist at ltja Ntjarra / Many Hands Art Centre


Iltja Ntjarra / Many Hands Art Centre, Homeless on my homeland, 2018-2019
Beautiful landscapes have been painted onto ‘dollar shop’ bags, a potent material symbol of life on the move. 

Fourteen artists from Iltja Ntjarra / Many Hands Art Centre are being shown across multiple locations for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, tracing stories of country as well as struggles with housing and displacement.

These works explore continuing connection to country, as well as continued cycles of dispossession, while powerfully asserting messages of self-determination to the many who have no connection or understanding of these urgent messages.

Text Biennale of Sydney

Many Hands Art Centre


Click on images to highlight details!


Australian represented artists or collectives where available:
Brook Andrew  / Represented by Tolarno Galleries Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery Sydney; Galerie Nathalie Obadia Paris Brussels
Many Hands Art Centre
Mimili Maku Arts Centre   
Tennant Creek Brio
Tony Albert  / Represented by Sullivan + Strumpf Sydney
Disclaimer: The pictured artists and accompanying information has been randomly chosen to provide a ‘cross section’ only of the artist’s represented in the Sydney Biennale.
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