Katie West

Posted 19 Jul 16

By Kate Ten Buuren

Katie West is an interdisciplinary artist with a background in social sciences. A Yindjibarndi woman, Katie creates immersive works that unpack ideas around trans-generational healing and what a decolonised Australia could look like. Kalinya created an Indigenous audience engagement strategy for the Next Wave Festival, which featured Katie’s most recent work Decolonist.

Decolonist was a site-specific installation that address the need for a space where both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can come together, to shed beliefs, and create a stronger community.

Katie grew up in a small town outside of Perth with her adoptive grandparents, and remembers feelings of isolation, being away from country and not knowing how to access her culture.

“I fully believed that I had no culture, because I had been disconnected from my Yindjibarndi practices.”

“I believed the ideas that informed the assimilation policies.”

“And then I started to wonder what my identity would be if it wasn’t tainted by colonisation and didn’t have this trauma attached to it.”

As a lecturer on Indigenous health, West sensed an anxiety in the non-Indigenous community, of wanting to engage in conversation but also not wanting to offend.

“What needs to happen before we can have meaningful conversations?”

“For people to just relax, to shed everything you think you know about Aboriginality, so you can actually listen.”

Decolonist acts as a contemplative space for self-reflection, West’s voice guides you through a meditative process as you are invited into a gallery filled with natural materials and hand-sewn fabrics.

“There is a lot of Indigenous art that is really in your face. And I have gained confidence from viewing those works myself.”

“But this work is about being inviting, to let everyone in.”

We asked Katie what would a decolonised Australia look like:

“We would have a sense of Australian national identity that gave as much privilege to Indigenous philosophies and Western philosophies.”

Photo: Kate Ten Buuren