Kate Robertson

This exhibition (10 April - 26 June at NorthSite) chronicles plants and their medicinal properties from the Siwai region of Bougainville Island, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea, through photographic light recordings. 

Concerned with the erosion of tacit traditional medicinal knowledge, Chief Alex Dawia of the Taa Lupumoiku Clan approached and invited Australian artist Kate Robertson to chronicle Siwai plant knowledge for preservation. Chief Jeffrey Noro of the Rura Clan, also from Siwai, joined their efforts, motivated by similar concerns to preserve tacit knowledge systems and provide positive recognition of their region. Over five years, the project has evolved to include photographic prints, an embroidered fabric panel, and a published book to explore how cross-cultural projects can provide mutual benefits through repatriation and transparency. Ultimately, it is a holistic inquiry into how we might work together across territorial borders, cultures, and skillsets to achieve a shared future. 

Through experimental analog and digital photographic techniques, Kate explores unseen yet felt phenomena relating to healing and connectedness within community contexts. In 2018, Kate's work was published in a book titled Kuna Siwai Pokong, which has been accessioned into the Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery (PNG), Australian Museum (AUS), and Field Museum (USA). Her work is held in numerous collections, including The Art Gallery of New South Wales (AUS), Southeast Museum of Photography (USA), and Center for Creative Photography (USA).