Sparkke at The Whitmore is hosting a photographic portrait exhibition this month to recognise, celebrate and elevate the passionate leadership of South Australian Aboriginal women.

The exhibition, which opens on January 26, is shot by multi-award-winning Aboriginal photographer Professor Wayne Quilliam and curated by the South Australian Museum’s Rebecca Richards (an Adnyamathanha and Barngarla woman from the northern Flinders Ranges, and the first Aboriginal Australian Rhodes Scholar).

“As the photographer of this exhibition and an Aboriginal man, I simply help to bring these stories, owned by the women themselves, to the world,” Quilliam said in a press release. “I was talking to Aunty Ellen Trevorrow about the importance of the shoot, and she said, ‘Wayne, I feel so honoured to be included, because for so many years I’ve operated behind the scenes and helped organise these Change the Date rallies, but I’ve never been asked to be at the forefront.’ To highlight these important women is the essence of why we are doing this dynamic, powerful and inclusive exhibition.”

Other leaders, both current and emerging, represented in the exhibition include Yuwallarai woman Kirstie Parker, director of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation SA; Yankunytjatjara Anangu woman Karina Lester, a linguist and translator; Adnyamathanha woman Charlotte Coulthard-Dare, a transgender activist and recipient of the 2019 NAIDOC SA LGBTIQ Person of the Year Award; and Eastern Arrente woman Dr Jenni Caruso, an Indigenous historian.

“These are portraits of just some of the Aboriginal women whose names and faces should be known – and whose voices and messages should be heard by all Australians in 2020,” said Sparkke co-founder Kari Allen. “These are people who support the retention of the deep knowledge gathered over tens of thousands of years, which is critically important as our world is heating physically, spiritually and morally. These women (collectively) are our alternate Australian of the Year 2020.

“While many Australians support changing the date, broader national conversations are needed to build genuine understanding and commitment to the change,” she adds. “Conversations founded in knowledge and respect are a powerful force for change – and we need more of them.”

The exhibition will open with lunch at Sparkke’s newly opened rooftop bar. The eight-course menu, created by chefs Emma McCaskill and Alana Brabin, will include house-smoked kangaroo charcuterie, Coorong mullet wrapped in paperbark and cooked over woodfire, braised wild goat, and smashed wattleseed pavlova with strawberry gum.

Brabin grew up in the Aboriginal community of Collarenebri in north-western NSW. She works with Red Centre Enterprises, an Aboriginal-owned and run company that harvests and processes the fresh, frozen and dried native products that will be featured on the menu.

“There will be a lot of native inspiration in the menu, which celebrates a beautiful culture that we should recognise every day,” says Brabin. “This exhibition and lunch are a step in the right direction for Australia.”

Proceeds from the exhibition and lunch will go to the Go Foundation and the Museum of South Australia in support of projects linked to the preservation of Aboriginal culture. Tickets are $120 per person, or $1100 for a group of 10.