How MAC yapang champions First Nations art

Published on 25 June 2024


Once an abundant place where Aboriginal people came together, the Sculpture Park surrounding MAC yapang holds significant sites, including a knapping floor where stone tools and shell middens were made.

It’s apt therefore that MAC yapang - yapang meaning journey or pathway in the Awabakal language – is committed to supporting Aboriginal artists and community.

Through listening, creating space and facilitating projects, our gallery not only champions Aboriginal art but looks to tell the truth about the past, support healing and create a better future. 


Diverse works by Aboriginal artists that speak to cultural heritage and contemporary experience are found at MAC yapang. 

The permanent collection includes artwork by Jonathan Jones, Jason Wing, Judy Watson, Ruby Djikarra Alderton, Eubena Nampitjin, Ningie Nangala, Kathleen Paddoon and Freddie Timms.

Over the coming years  several exhibitions will look at the environment and explore the deep connections between living beings, such as Keg De Souza ‘Blue Haze’ (late 2024) which explores the stories of local Elders and their connections to Eucalypts of the area; Shellie Smith (2025) who is an Awabakal descendant and explores truth telling and retelling colonial narratives from a First Nations viewpoint, and the late Billy Missi (2025), a Torres Strait artist from the Wagedagam Tribe who led the way in Zenadh-Kes contemporary printmaking practices

First Nations artists lead workshops at MAC yapang that enable participants to connect with culture. Weaving is particularly popular as it brings people together in a space where conversations can happen. 


Image above: Keg De Souza, Blue Haze (2023) as part of Shipping Roots at Inverleith House. Image courtesy of the artist.


In 2025, MAC yapang will launch a Sound Trail enabling visitors to walk through the Sculpture Park and listen to Elders and artists share stories. 

Several Aboriginal artworks feature in the Sculpture Park including a new living sculpture Kakilliko – meaning ‘looking back, looking forward’- by Uncle Douglas Archibald. This grove of Eucalyptus trees is being grafted together to form ‘Circle Trees’ (or ‘Boundary Trees’) and is an intergenerational story telling project. 

Uncle Doug first saw Circle Trees at Glenrock Lagoon as a 12 or 13-year-old while camping there. “There are two trees grafted together which grew into a circle, telling visitors that this is where Aboriginal people lived. Every time I visited Glenrock, I had to go see the trees,” he said. 

When the opportunity arose five decades later at MAC yapang, Uncle Doug leapt at the chance to create Circle Trees as a portal to the past, telling stories of Aboriginal people that lived on the lake.

While it will take five years for the trees to fully form a circle, visitors can hear stories of significant sites around the lake via a downloadable audio app (currently in development).

“Working on the circle trees has already made me new friends and many are excited to see how it turns out. I owe it all to the trees,” he said.

MAC yapang often looks to the water as a connection to Torres Strait Islander and Pacific Nations with the Sculpture Park also featuring artwork by Samoan artist Fatu Feu’u. Across the water at Warners Bay you will find Brian Robinson’s two stingrays with carved patterns, the Ocean Guardians. Brian grew up on Waiben (Thursday Island) and has Torres Strait with Maluyligal and Wuthathi cultural heritage. 

The Sculpture Park is currently being revitalised with native plants including a range of bush tucker and Red Cedars that were once prevent across the region before being logged to near extinction


Image above: Uncle Jim Ridgeway, Sue Stewart and members of the community, Meeting Place (2003), mosaics, ceramics, paving and native grasses. Photo by Docqment. 


The Aboriginal Reference Group (ARG) is an integral part of MAC yapang; shaping programs at the gallery for 23 years. 

Key exhibitions include ‘Yapang marruma: making our way (stories of the stolen)’, ‘Beyond the Dot: 12 Years of Indigenous Programming' and ‘Wrapped in a Possum Skin Cloak by the Lake’.

Local Aboriginal artists are engaged at multiple stages of their careers while the gallery also hosts touring exhibitions that share stories from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. 

A placement program run for First Nations artists, curators and educators sees Renae Lamb - First Nations artist, dancer and fashion designer - joining MAC yapang to develop the upcoming ‘Story Country: Uncle Jim Ridgeway’ exhibition. Uncle Jim Ridgeway was one of the ARG’s founding members and two  artworks he collaborated on creating feature in the Sculpture Park. 

Story County opens in October with the late artists’ paintings and ceramics that echo petroglyphs and entrusted stories and trace stories of his connection to Birpui and Awabakal Country. 

“I’ve known of Uncle Jim and grown up with his family my whole life. To have the opportunity to share in his story, as someone who fought for a space for indigenous art, is an incredible opportunity,” Renae said. 

“Uncle Jim is more than a champion; he is a legend. He guides us as he goes before us and is always with us,” she said.


Image above: Uncle Jim Ridgeway's hand coiled pottery. Clockwise from left - My Country 2004, Mukkun (Muk-kun) Lizard 2004, Toomulla (A Creek) 2003, Kangaroo 2002.

Image at top: Exhibition view yapang Emerging Art Prize 2023, Museum of Art and Culture yapang, July 2023

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