The curator of an indigenous exhibition tells Stephen Bevis she wants to celebrate the artists as well as their works

Culture Warriors: National Indigenous Art Triennial is at the Art Gallery of WA from Friday to November 23. Danie Mellor: The Great Creative Golden Age of Long Ago and Here and Now is at Holmes a Court Gallery from Friday to October 12.

‘Of the 30 indigenous artists represented in Culture Warriors, 21 were not considered citizens of Australia, nor counted in the national census, until 1967.

Neither, for that matter, was the speaker, Brenda Croft, the curator of Australia’s first national survey of Aboriginal art, which was conceived to mark the 40th anniversary of the referendum that finally gave the vote to this continent’s first people.

Works in the Culture Warriors: National Indigenous Art Triennial examine deaths in custody, infant mortality, gross unemployment and other searing social and political issues but Croft says the exhibition has a much broader scope than serving as a collective critique of Australia’s lingering post-colonial legacies.

It is looking at how much has been achieved in that time, she says. It is not meant to be an ˜Oh, woe is me’ thing. It is meant to be a celebration of the people who made this work.

Croft says there is a tendency for the current art world, dominated by a speculative stocks and shares approach to Aboriginal art, to sideline the artists themselves. I really wanted to celebrate the artists, not just their work.

In devising Culture Warriors, Croft references the polarising history wars or culture wars of the past decade but also gives the phrase an ambiguous irony, asserting that anyone and everyone can be a culture warrior.