Tribute to Bidjigal artist and La Perouse Elder, Esme Timbery

Today in Parliament Abigail paid tribute to Aunty Esme Timbery and the incredible legacy she leaves behind through her art. 

Abigail said: I move: 

(1) That this House notes with sadness the recent passing of renowned Bidjigal artist and La Perouse Elder, Esme Timbery, at age 92, and extends condolences to Esme's family and all those who knew and loved her.

(2) That this House recognises and celebrates the incredible work of Esme as one of Australia's longest practicing First Nations artists for more than 80 years, and the profound and lasting impact that Esme has had on the arts and creative sector in Australia and internationally.

(3) That this House further notes that:

(a) the Timbery family has long been famed for their prominent and renowned shellwork art, including Esme's great‑grandmother Emma Timbery who created shellwork art that was exhibited in London in the early 1900s;

(b) Esme's award-winning artwork which embodies an enduring connection to country, has been proudly displayed in numerous collections in galleries across Australia and internationally, including in the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Art Gallery of NSW, National Museum of Australia, Wollongong Art Gallery, the Powerhouse Museum, the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences and more;

(c) Esme's shellwork was first exhibited in a contemporary art context in 1997 at the Manly Regional Gallery and Museum's exhibition "Djalarinji – Something that Belongs to Us";

(d) in 2002 Esme recreated Sydney landmarks in shellwork, commissioned by the Sydney Opera House, which was exhibited in "Messages from the Fringe", Birrung Gallery, Sydney, 2003, and "Terra Alterius: Land Of Another", Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney, 2004;

(e) Esme was awarded the inaugural 2005 NSW Parliament Indigenous Art Prize for her shellworked depictions of the Sydney Harbour Bridge;

(f) one of Esme’s most renowned artworks is her piece "Shellworked Slippers", a wall-mounted installation of 200 intricate shellworked children's slippers, which was commissioned by curator Djon Mundine for the 2008 exhibition "Ngadhu, Ngulili, Ngeaninyagu – A Personal History of Aboriginal Art in the Premier State", and is currently displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art;

(g) in 2019, the University of New South Wales [UNSW] named a performing arts building in Esme's honour, the Esme Timbery Creative Practice Lab, colloquially known to students as "The Esme"; and

(h) the fierce legacy of Esme Timbery lives on in her artwork, which serves as a lasting symbol of generations of First Nations art and storytelling.


Read the full transcript in Hansard here.

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