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VU Indigenous art to feature in Italian exhibition

Three installation works by a Victoria University lecturer are travelling to Italy as part of the biggest exhibition of Indigenous art to leave Australian shores.

West Footscray resident Paola Balla is one of 80 Aboriginal artists from across Australia whose works will be on show in some of Italy's major galleries.

The not-for-profit exhibition, titled Rainbow Serpent, will open in Sardinia in February and move to Milan, Venice and Sicily during a three year tour.

Ms Balla, 36, said it was an "absolute honour'' to have her work included with more than 300 pieces of art from places as remote as the Tiwi Islands.

"I've never been to Italy so I feel really excited because it's great international exposure,'' she said. "As an artist you always hope to have some sort of showing internationally. ''

However, the eight artists chosen to travel with the exhibition are still waiting for an answer to their request for funding from the Federal Government to make the trip.

"I was lucky enough to be chosen to travel with the exhibition because of the interest in my Italian heritage,'' Ms Balla said. "My mother is from the Wemba Wemba and Gunditjmara peoples and my father is Italian. I grew up between these two cultures.

"I hope the Australia Council understands what a great opportunity it would be for us to travel over there. There's a growing interest in Indigenous culture in Italy and particularly contemporary art. It would be great to represent our communities over there and educate Italians about our culture.''

Ms Balla, who grew up in Echuca on Yorta Yorta country, has been drawing and painting since she was a young child.

"My grandmother was a landscape oil painter and she used to take a piece of charcoal out of the campfire and tell me to draw things. I've started moving into photography and installations recently.

"I use objects that I find on the footpaths around Footscray, in local op-shops, from neighbours' hard rubbish. It's environmentally responsible in that way. We are a very resilient people and I try to express our experiences through my work. Art can be a form of activism for Indigenous people.''

Photos of Paola Balla's art pieces are available upon request.

For interview: Paola Balla, Victoria University, on 0401 932 405

Media contact:

Daniel Clarke, Media Officer,

VU Marketing and Communications Department

Ph: 9919 9491 or 0407 771 072

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