Learning Resource

Nicole Foreshew
Mambanha (the cry of mourning)


Nicole Foreshew, Wiradjuri people, Mambanha (the cry of mourning) 2021–22, commissioned by the National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra for the 4th National Indigenous Art Triennial: Ceremony. Courtesy the artist.

This artwork is the result of a creative partnership between Wiradjuri artist Nicole Foreshew and the esteemed Gija artist, the late Boorljoonngali. This installation presents the final chapter in their collaboration, the Gemerre/Garraba project, which looks at ‘concepts of the body, earth and song through the power of objects’.

Boorljoonngali’s Gemerre work comprises 24 individual panels that come together as six works featuring a series of horizontal lines in ochre. The lines signify the ceremonial scarification marks that are made on the body as part of initiation rites. Foreshew’s collection of ceramic vessels, titled Mambanha (the cry of mourning), pays respect to Boorljoonngali and continues the conversation between the two artists. Some of the raw materials, clay and ochres are harvested, collected and gifted from Gija Country, Wiradjuri Country and Gumbaynggirr Country with permission from family and Tradition.

The healing capacity of art is central to Foreshew’s practice. She has created wir guwang (rain sky), an installation in which visitors are invited to immerse themselves in mist scented with natural plant essences sourced from Country. This work evokes smoking ceremonies carried out by First Nations people across Australia used to cleanse and promote the wellbeing of participants.

How many objects can you see in this artwork?

What do you notice about them?

Who is an important elder in your life?

What are some things that this person has taught you or shared with you?

What activities do you like to share together?

Thinking about the activities and experiences you share with your elder, write a list of all the objects that you use together.
What objects do you use? What objects does your elder use?

If you can, collect some of these objects together. Spend some time holding these objects, what do they feel like to hold?
Use these objects to make an arrangement or sculpture that tells the story of the activity that you share with each other.

From the Audio Tour:

Artist Nicole Foreshew on Mambanha (the cry of mourning)

Our natural environment can tell us a lot about what's happening that we may not be aware of.

I think the collective conscious around what ceremony is, is so important right now, not just with our environment, but who we are as people. We most desperately need to be the storytellers of our experience.

We have the ability to be able to connect and communicate and translate the changes that are happening and also our, just, deep love for each other and the earth that we're in.

That's the power of art – that it can transcend time, it can transcend place, and it can also transcend us, as a people.

And that's why it can be so incredibly powerful.

Mambanha (the cry of mourning) is an extract of a collaboration called Gemerre/Garraba that I did with Boorljoonngali. I titled the work Mambanha, a Wiradjuri word, a word that means so much, that means literally to cry or to mourn. And I feel like it wasn’t intentional, I just found a way to scale up and capture and harness my love for her. [The vessels] are really delicate and they’re of the earth as well. The red ochre is the ochre that was gifted to me when Boorljoonngali was alive, because we were just swapping things. I don’t really use red, but I was like, ‘Well, I’ve been given this by Boorljoonngali and I’m going to use it’, to pay respect to Boorljoonngali. Having multiples and just that repetition of making has been really healing for me, to just make something.

— Nicole Foreshew, 2021