Ngambaa: curious to learn


ART SET BY: Rebecca Sini, Teacher, Brungle Public School

This unit of work is excerpted from a 3 term unit of work developed and delivered as part of Home, an innovative regional outreach education program developed by the Art Gallery of NSW in partnership with The Arts Unit of the NSW Department of Education and regional galleries across NSW.

Students will develop an understanding of nationally recognised and local Wiradjuri art practice, language and culture through investigating and appreciating 4 Wiradjuri artists and the contexts within which they work. Students will respond by creating their own artworks using a variety of different forms and media and will examine links to their communities and places of personal significance.

Subject matter: varied
Forms: drawing, painting, weaving, wood burning, printmaking , clay work

AGNSW collection Roy Kennedy Days of harmony on my Mission in days gone by 1998
AGNSW collection Roy Kennedy Days of harmony on my Mission in days gone by 1998

STAGE 3: Creative and Practical Arts outcomes: Visual Arts


VAS3.1 Investigates subject matter in an attempt to represent likenesses of things in the world.
• observes details of things in the world and makes artworks using various techniques
• explores artistic concepts of the seven elements of art (Line, Shape, Colour, Space, Form, Value, Texture) and uses these to create artworks.

VAS3.2 Makes artworks for different audiences assembling materials in a variety of ways.
• uses appropriate techniques in the construction of two and three-dimensional forms.

AGNSW collection Tommy McRae Spearing the kangaroo circa 1880s-circa 1890s
AGNSW collection Tommy McRae Spearing the kangaroo circa 1880s-circa 1890s


VAS3.3 Acknowledges that audiences respond in different ways to artworks and that there are different opinions about the value of artworks.
• talks about the meanings of artworks recognising they can be valued in different ways by themselves as audience members and by others
• recognises that an audience may have a different view to that of the artist about the meaning of a work.

VAS3.4 Communicates about the ways in which subject matter is represented in artworks.
• discusses how materials and techniques are used in the representation of subject matter
• discusses how the various elements of art are manipulated to create specific effects in artworks.
• reflects on the process of making artworks.


› HTe-1 communicates stories of their own family heritage and the heritage of others
› HTe 2 demonstrates developing skills of historical inquiry and communication

Key inquiry questions:
› what stories do other people tell about the past?
› how can stories of the past be told and shared?

How the stories of families and the past can be communicated, for example through photographs, artefacts, books, oral histories, digital media and museums (ACHHK004)

› engage in and respond to stories about families in other places, including those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups

› HT1 1 communicates an understanding of change and continuity in family life using appropriate historical terms
› HT1 2 identifies and describes significant people, events, places and sites in the local community over time

Key inquiry questions:
• how has family life changed or remained the same over time?

Differences and similarities between students' daily lives and life during their parents' and grandparents' childhoods, including family traditions, leisure time and communications (ACHHK030)

• represent graphically the structure of their immediate family

› HT2 4 describes and explains effects of British colonisation in Australia
› HT2 5 applies skills of historical inquiry and communication

Key inquiry questions:
• who lived here first and how do we know?

The importance of Country and Place to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples who belong to a local area. (ACHHK060)

• identify the original Aboriginal languages spoken in the local or regional area
• identify the special relationship that Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples have to Country and Place

Country and Place
• respond to Aboriginal stories about Country presented in printed and visual texts
Stage 2 - First Contacts

Key inquiry questions:
• what was life like for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples before the arrival of the Europeans?
• what was the nature and consequence of contact between Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples and early traders, explorers and settlers?

The diversity and longevity of Australia's first people and the way Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples are connected to Country and implications (ACHHK077)

• describe the nature of contact between Aboriginal people and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples and others, including Aboriginal resistance
• explain the term terra nullius and describe how this affected the British attitude to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
• outline the impact of early British colonisation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' country

› HT3 4 describes and explains the struggles for rights and freedoms in Australia, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
HT3 5 applies a variety of skills of historical inquiry and communication

Key inquiry questions:
• how did colonial settlement change the environment?
• what were the significant events and who were the significant people that shaped Australian colonies?

The nature of colonial presence on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their way of life and how the environment changed (ACHHK094)

• discuss the impact of settlement on local Aboriginal peoples and the environment
• discuss the diverse relationships between Aboriginal peoples and the British

Key inquiry questions:
• who were the people who came to Australia? Why did they come?
• what contribution have significant individuals and groups made to the development of Australian society?

Experiences of Australian democracy and citizenship, including status and rights of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders, migrants, women and children (ACHHK114)

• examine Australian human rights, past and present, affecting Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, migrants, women and children
• investigate the significance of ONE of the following in the struggle for the rights and freedoms of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
– the Stolen Generations
– the right to vote federally in 1962
– he 1967 Referendum


AGNSW Resource: Home: Aboriginal art from NSW

Videos from AGNSW Channel:
Murruwaygu 1: Following in the footsteps of our ancestors
Murruwaygu 2: Classical Koori artists
Murruwaygu 3: 19th century Koori artists
Murruwaygu 4: Self-taught Koori artists
Murruwaygu 5: Contemporary Koori artists

Tommy McRae:
Images of Tommy McRae works
white paper
lead pencils
fine-tipped black textas of varying widths
black ink
Edicol water dyes
air dry clay

Roy Kennedy & Tommy McRae:
Moo Carve blocks/Wood Burning
lino carving tools
printing rollers
acrylic paints
white paper
AGNSW Channel videos:
- Artist video: Roy Kennedy
- Aboriginal Artists of the 19th Century

Lorraine Connelly-Northey:
raffia (coloured and natural)
rulers and grey lead pencils

AGNSW collection Lorraine Connelly-Northey Narbong (string bag) 2008
AGNSW collection Lorraine Connelly-Northey Narbong (string bag) 2008


Task 1. Introduce Ngambaa Project

Ask students: ‘What do you know about Aboriginal art and culture?’ ‘What do you expect Aboriginal art to look like?’

Accept all responses and discuss ideas given.

Discuss different forms of Aboriginal art and culture. Look through some of the artist cards in the AGNSW resource Home: Aboriginal art from New South Wales to demonstrate the variety of Aboriginal artists and artworks from the south-east of Australia.

Task 2. What does ‘home’ mean?

Ask students: ‘What does home mean to you?’

Discuss responses and encourage elaboration. Explore the idea that home can refer to places, buildings, people, animals, gardens, internal and external features.
Students sketch ideas related to what home means to them in Visual Art diaries.

Task 3. Appreciating artist Tommy McRae

Display sketches by Tommy McRae including Spearing the kangaroo c1880s–c1890s and discuss what students see and how they make them feel.

Explain Tommy McRae’s story and his history. Consider the following key points:
• McRae was a carver who then applied carving techniques to sketching with pen and ink.
• McRae used short, sharp, layered marks to build on each other and create texture.
• McRae used space to emphasise main subjects in artworks, left out extraneous details, backgrounds etc
• McRae experienced the invasion of Wiradjuri country.
• McRae documented changes in Wiradjuri culture and impact of European invasion, gold rush etc.
• Sketches are important historical documents of this era.
• McRae became an entrepreneur creating and selling artworks to Europeans who wanted to see ‘authentic’ Wiradjuri culture.

View more examples of McRae’s sketches and critique them in terms of the elements of art, subject matter and their impact/importance.

Task 4. Response to Tommy McRae

Revise key points about Tommy McRae’s works:
• McRae documented his home and changing cultural and physical landscape over his lifetime
• McRae worked mostly in monochrome pen and ink sketching
• McRae used short, layered marks to create line and texture similar to carving technique
• McRae utilised positive and negative space to create effects
• McRae created mostly ‘silhouette’ figures

Students use fine point textas of various thicknesses (4mm, 6mm 8mm) to create sketches on white paper depicting important aspects of their lives eg an event, people, places etc.
Allow choice of size of paper and mount on black cardboard.

Task 5. Video Series Murruwaygu: following in the footsteps of our ancestors on AGNSW website

Over several lessons, watch the video series Murruwaygu: following in the footsteps of our ancestors:
Murruwaygu 1: Following in the footsteps of our ancestors
Murruwaygu 2: Classical Koori artists
Murruwaygu 3: 19th century Koori artists
Murruwaygu 4: Self-taught Koori artists
Murruwaygu 5: Contemporary Koori artists

Discuss the artworks of Tommy McRae, Roy Kennedy and HJ Wedge in particular.

Compare these artists’ backgrounds and the media and techniques used by each.

Discuss the use of line by carvers such as McRae and consider how such methods of using line to represent stories of personal significance is continuing today.

Task 6: Appreciating artist Roy Kennedy

Revise what students learned about Roy Kennedy from the video Murruwaygu 4: Self-taught Koori artists and watch video interview with Roy Kennedy on AGNSW website.

Look at more images of by Roy Kennedy on the AGNSW website and discuss the following:
• Kennedy depicts images from Police Paddock mission, the mission at Darlington Point near Narrandera, where he grew up and which no longer exists.
• Discuss the nature of mission life, Discuss the fact that during Kennedy’s life Wiradjuri language, art and cultural practices were outlawed.
• Discuss the Stolen Generation and its impact on Aboriginal people.
• Kennedy came to artwork later in life after living a varied and at times difficult life.
• Kennedy uses line in his prints which are black and white.

Task 7. Response to Tommy McRae and Roy Kennedy: line work in clay

Part 1: Introduction to clay work and techniques

Discuss use of clay to complete carving/line activities

Introduce rules and protocols for using clay:
• Importance of listening and watching to learn specific clay techniques
− rolling,
− hatching to join surfaces, sparing use of water to smooth edges,
− not squishing too thin
− taking care to not get clay everywhere
• Discuss using air dry clay rather than firing
• Model how to roll a ball and use thumbs to create a pinch pot and inscribe name on bottom
• Students create free choice 3D form using air dry clay.

Part 2: Linework - Clay Tiles

Introduce students to the concept of carving into clay tile to create image.

Students design artwork in art diary in a square the size of a clay tile to portray their school/family/life/event.

Students use carving tools to carve their design into their clay tile.

Reinforce the need to carve carefully to avoid piercing and/or breaking the tile.

Students leave their tiles to air dry.

Task 8. Appreciating artist Lorraine Connelly-Northey

Display the series of works called Narrbong (string bag) 2007–08 by Lorraine Connolly-Northey.

Ask: what do you see? How does it make you feel?

Discuss Connolly-Northey’s use of materials (pastoral and colonial waste) and subject matter (woven baskets used by women) and the contrast of the two. Consider the idea that her practice communicates a political statement about the enduring nature of Wiradjuri culture and practices.

Display other artworks created by Connolly-Northey and the consider her ongoing use of colonial era or pastoral waste to recreate Indigenous objects.

Task 9. Responding to Lorraine Connolly-Northey: raffia animals, baskets or experimental sculpture

[This task requires some teacher preparation and experimentation in learning some basic weaving techniques and the use of blanket stitch.]

Introduce raffia weaving samples.

Model how to weave blanket stitch. Show several different methods to weave blanket stitch.
Model how to create a raffia animal using a hank of raffia folded over, fastened with rubber bands at each end and then woven over with raffia and/or coloured wool.

Demonstrate the use of decoration with sticks, feathers, gumnuts, beads etc and glue on.
Students can start with an idea or can just start creating and let the shape dictate final outcome.

Allow students who struggle other opportunities eg :
• Wrap wool and/or coloured raffia over sticks to create mobiles
• Loom weaving with cardboard looms
• Create animal shape with wire, wrap over with hessian strips and bind with raffia and/or wool

Display all the finished sculptural works in a class exhibition and discuss.