Untitled (Ceremony) painting by William Barak
This painting was purchased by the Trust in 1983 from an Auction house in Melbourne. This work is untitled but the theme is consistent with many of Barak’s other works in that it depicts ceremony.
Over his lifetime William Barak gained a reputation as a skilled artist, creating paintings, drawings and artefacts.
During his last two decades he painted the ceremonial side of Wurundjeri culture: in particular, corroborees. In Barak’s day these ceremonial meetings were held almost nightly around Melbourne. A corroboree typically involved elements of dance, song, ritual and discussion, and could be called for a number of reasons: marriage, initiation, trade or dispute settlement.
Barak’s paintings and drawings had a strong linear emphasis. He depicted Wurundjeri people wearing traditional possum skin cloaks, clapping boomerangs together, and performing dances and hunting ceremonies. Animal totems – emus, echidnas, turtles – also figured.
Art offered Barak a chance to record the traditional ways of his culture, and pass this knowledge down. When Governor Sir Henry Loch’s request to witness a corroboree was refused by the Board for the Protection of Aborigines, which had banned such “heathen” practices, Barak was commissioned to paint the Governor a picture of a corroboree instead.