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An art residency for Karrabing ancestors and totems that shape the lands and more-than-human worlds they inhabit.

The Campaign

As part of Back to Earth, Karrabing Film Collective is developing The Family, a new film commission and cross-artforms project aimed at enhancing ancestral Emmi narratives about the southern coastal region of the Anson Bay (Northern Territories, Australia), and specifically about the ecologically fragile Cape Ford region. The ultimate goal of the project is the creation of a cultural heritage area.

Karrabing Film Collective, The Family (2021). Film still. Courtesy of the artists.

About the Project

The Family will include two artistic outputs and a comprehensive digital mapping of an extensive network of rock weirs and shell middens with the ultimate goal of creating a cultural heritage area around the Mabuluk (Cape Ford) region. The two artistic outputs are a film, The Family, which the Serpentine Galleries’ Back to Earth project is co-commissioning, and of a series of locally situated large-scale wood-based graffiti maps.

The film of The Family, which will be released in 2021, alternates between contemporary time, in which Karrabing members struggle to maintain their physical, ethical and ceremonial connections to their remote ancestral lands, and a future populated by ancestral beings living in the aftermath of toxic capitalism and white zombies. It combines historical and contemporary footage from Karrabing trips to the Mabuluk region with fictional encounters with the future ancestors.

The graffiti maps build on a series of corrugated iron-based installation pieces done for the IMA, Brisbane; MoMA-PS1, New York; Vargas, Manilla; and Watch This Space, Alice Springs. These large form wooden maps will express Karrabing land-oriented language-practices in contemporary youth frameworks. The maps will combine narrative elements of Emmi language narratives about the ancestral formation of the Mabuluk region with an historical reconstruction of rock weirs and shell middens. The documentation of these weirs and middens will be placed within the context of climate change and coastal erosion. These maps will remain within the local landscape for language culture and training.

About Karrabing Film Collective

Karrabing Film Collective is an Indigenous media group who use filmmaking to interrogate the conditions of inequality for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and retain connections to land and their ancestors. Composed of some thirty extended family members whose ancestral lands stretch across saltwaters and inlands and the Italian Alps, Karrabing together create films using an “improvisational realism” that opens a space beyond binaries of the fictional and the documentary, the past and the present.

Meaning “low tide” in the Emmiyengal language, karrabing refers to a form of collectivity outside of government-imposed strictures of clanship or land ownership. Shot on handheld cameras and phones, most of Karrabing’s films dramatise and satirise the daily scenarios and obstacles that collective members face in their various interactions with corporate and state entities. Composing webs of nonlinear narratives that touch on cultural memory, place, and ancestry by freely jumping in time and place, Karrabing exposes and intervenes into the longstanding facets of colonial violence that impact members directly, such as environmental devastation, land restrictions, and economic exploitation.


The Family is a co-commission by: Serpentine Galleries, London for Back to Earth and E-Werk Luckenwalde for Power Night. With the support and collaboration of Indigenous Language and Art Program, Department of the Arts, Australia and Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority, Darwin, Australia. Additional thanks to Madre, Napoli.


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