Biennale of Sydney

Barbara McGrady

Barbara McGrady (with John Janson-Moore), Ngiyaningy Maran Yaliwaunga Ngaara-li (Our Ancestors Are Always Watching), 2020. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Campbelltown Arts Centre. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous support from the Australia Council for the Arts. Courtesy the artist. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.
Left to Right: Barbara McGrady, Justice For TJ Hickey. Mother & relatives of teenager TJ Hickey speak at a rally to protest his death while being pursued by police in Redfern 2013, 2014; Black Lives Matter, Martin Place, 2015; and Sovereignty Never Ceded. Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy set up by Wiradjuri woman Jenny Munro to protest the gentrification and the erasing of Aboriginal families by the Aboriginal Housing Company & their developers, 2016. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Art Gallery of New South Wales. Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with generous support from the Australia Council for the Arts. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.
Barbara McGrady, Sovereignty Never Ceded. Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy set up by Wiradjuri woman Jenny Munro to protest the gentrification and the erasing of Aboriginal families by the Aboriginal Housing Company & their developers, 2016. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Art Gallery of New South Wales. Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with generous support from the Australia Council for the Arts. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.

Barbara McGrady

Born 1950 in Mungindi, Australia
Lives and works in Sydney, Australia
Gomeroi / Murri / Yinah


“As a Gomeroi yinnar photographer, it has always been my responsibility to bring our stories into the public domain, to connect and engage audiences with images through a black lens. For most of my life, I have documented the diversity of Aboriginal experiences: politics, sport, dance, song, community, family. Ngiyaningy Maran Yaliwaunga Ngaara-li (Our Ancestors Are Always Watching) shifts my work into a new phase. It is an opportunity to delve into my archive, to curate my lifetime’s work and re-present it as a kaleidoscopic compendium of Aboriginal contemporary history within a gallery setting. It is an immersive, multichannel audio-visual black takeover of the white cube: a ‘Blackout’. Ngiyaningy Maran Yaliwaunga Ngaara-li provides an insight into what it means to be a First Nations person surviving and thriving in a colonial world.”

Presented at Campbelltown Arts Centre, Ngiyaningy Maran Yaliwaunga Ngaara-li (Our Ancestors Are Always Watching) is a major new work by Barbara McGrady. McGrady’s dense, interconnected and expansive photographic archive highlights the nature of her images as agentic forces that not only document and witness, but participate across cultural realms, centring Indigenous histories and stories, and becoming tools for activism and shifting perceptions. The immersive multichannel audio-visual installation was produced in collaboration with photographer and film maker John Janson Moore and includes prose and words from McGrady’s social media sites.

At the Art Gallery of New South Wales, three of McGrady’s striking photographs cover the walls of the grand entry court. These images could easily be on the front page of any major newspaper. They capture moments of protest and remembrance, dynamic stories of individual and collective action unfolding across public spaces. Barbara McGrady’s images frequently foreground Indigenous stories and activism, while parsing the local, national and global within a single frame. The dramatic scaling-up of these photographs, which predominantly circulate online, serves as a gesture of memorial towards the moments they witness. The images also serve as testimonials to the urgent continued struggles and unfinished stories they are imbedded within.

Gamilaroi/Gomeroi Murri Yinah (Woman) from North Western NSW and Southern Queensland, Barbara McGrady, is a passionate advocate for telling the true stories of contemporary Aboriginal life, documenting her ’mob's’ achievements, humanity and beauty through a unique lens. As both an ’observer’ and ’protagonist’ in the ongoing conflict between Aboriginal culture, spiritual connection to country and Australian colonial sensibilities, McGrady clearly defines the implications of this disconnect in her work. As a trained sociologist, athlete and sports lover, McGrady has not only photographed in the greatest sporting arenas in Australia, but she also assiduously documents the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sportspeople engaged in the ideal of gladiatorial contest. McGrady is the recipient of the National Indigenous Human Rights Anthony Mundine Courage Award for social documentary photography (2014) and the Solid Screen International Award for Indigenous Women in Film and Photography for Photo Media documentation (2015).

Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous support from the Australia Council for the Arts

Exhibited Artwork

Barbara McGrady, Justice For TJ Hickey. Mother & relatives of teenager TJ Hickey speak at a rally to protest his death while being pursued by police in Redfern, 2013, 2014, inkjet print. This version was created for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with generous support from the Australia Council for the Arts. Courtesy the artist.

Location: Art Gallery of New South Wales

Barbara McGrady with John-Janson Moore, Ngiyaningy Maran Yaliwaunga Ngaara-li (Our Ancestors Are Always Watching), 2020, multimedia installation of photographic archive; music by Tasman Keith ‘My Pelopolees’; and Electric Fields ‘Pukulpa’, 8:40 mins. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous support from the Australia Council for the Arts. Courtesy the artist.

Photograph: Zan Wimberley

Location: Campbelltown Arts Centre

Barbara McGrady, Sovereignty Never Ceded. Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy set up by Wiradjuri woman Jenny Munro to protest the gentrification and the erasing of Aboriginal families by the Aboriginal Housing Company & their developers, 2016, inkjet print. This version was created for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with generous support from the Australia Council for the Arts. Courtesy the artist.

Location: Art Gallery of New South Wales

Barbara McGrady, Black Lives Matter, Martin Place, 2015, inkjet print. This version was created for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with generous support from the Australia Council for the Arts. Courtesy the artist.

Location: Art Gallery of New South Wales