1 August – 30 September 2014
Ruben Santiago’s project focuses on Boab nut carving, an art form specific to the Kimberley region where he undertook a residency in the township of Derby. Santiago carved 60 nuts, one for each day of his stay. Most of his carvings are textual and reflect his personal response to his experiences, thoughts and perceptions during his residency. It is believed the Indigenous inhabitants of the Kimberley developed nut carving after the arrival of European colonisers; today, the art is practised by carvers of diverse descent and heritage. A freely available material, the nuts are carved with pocketknives and sold as simple souvenirs, but they can also be powerful expressions of individual concerns, voicing political and social messages. Despite nut carving often being considered a minor skill, many nut carvers have proven the practice can be an effective art form to preserve memories and stimulate cross-cultural knowledge sharing.
With an emphasis on historic situations that turned out ‘not as good as they were cracked up to be’, Santiago’s work Not What It’s Cracked Up to Be, aims to expand the narrative potential of a relatively recent art form, while paying tribute to the many local carvers present and past, and increasing recognition of their work
Images: Ruben Santiago, Not What It’s Cracked Up to Be, 2014, installation view, spaced 2: future recall, Western Australian Museum Perth Photos: Marco Marcon, Robert Frith – Acorn Photography; Images courtesy Ruben Santiago.