Cross-cultural Indigenous art collaboration @ the Australian Pavilion’s Canberra Majlis at Expo 2020 Dubai

The Australian Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai is so liberally sprinkled with art installations, paintings, murals and prints that it is difficult to select any one piece as more novel than the rest. The pavilion is an art gallery in itself, an all-encompassing visual delight for its visitors.

One of the most notable attractions, however, is the pavilion's VIP Canberra Majlis veranda, sporting a frieze created through a cross-cultural art collaboration. The piece was created by Tyrown Waigana, a Wandandi Noongar (Indigenous) and Ait Koedhal (Torres Strait Islander) artist from Perth, Western Australia, and Emirati artist, Khalid Mezaina from Dubai, UAE. Tyrown is the 2020 winner of Australia’s prestigious National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) poster competition and Khalid is a recipient of the Cultural Foundation Art Residency 2020.

To create the frieze, titled “Inspiring Cultures to Connect”, both artists were working from their own studios, one in Dubai and the other in Australia. It was an unlikely connection that may never have formed were it not for Expo 2020 Dubai. Their remote collaboration has resulted in a colourful 22-metre long representation of the two richly diverse cultures, a striking centre point feature of the Australian Pavilion’s VIP Majlis balcony.

Tyrown says: “My culture has influenced my career and it is steeped in everything I do. I can’t really separate my personal practice from my cultural practice, and I think art is a way for Indigenous people to connect with their culture. The artwork was inspired by song lines, an integral piece of Indigenous culture that are quite pattern heavy. It has underlying themes of connection and sharing and essentially shows how a story travels.”

Khalid says: “Working with Tyrown was surprisingly very easy and fluid considering that he was working from Australia, and I was working from Dubai. I responded to Tyrown from the Emirati perspective and was thinking of a fireplace in a desert landscape and the idea of sharing stories in the oral tradition and our hospitality.”

More about the collaborating artists:

Tyrown Waigana has a Bachelor of Arts from Curtin University, majoring in graphic design, advertising, illustration, and photography. He owns and runs his business Crawlin Crocodile in Australia. Khalid Mezaina graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with an MFA in Textiles in 2018 after completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in visual communication from the American University of Sharjah. He works with several art foundations and entities in the UAE and abroad.

As a gift to visitors of the Australian Pavilion the artwork will be available as an NFT download throughout the month of November, powered by Terra Virtua and thanks to our partners MORROW collective.