Kluge-Ruhe holds up the mirror

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Raymond Bulumbula is one of two artists who will travel nearly 10,000 miles in September to reconnect with artworks in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection that were collected from their community in the 1960s. Courtesy Kluge-Ruhe Raymond Bulumbula is one of two artists who will travel nearly 10,000 miles in September to reconnect with artworks in the Kluge-Ruhe Collection that were collected from their community in the 1960s. Courtesy Kluge-Ruhe

Following last month’s local violence by neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups, many people are speaking and acting out against racism for the first time.

But becoming an effective activist and ally to people of color requires humility, curiosity and ongoing education—which is why locals are lucky that a small building, perched on a picturesque hillside on Pantops Farm, exists in part to expose, explore and counter racism across cultures and generations.

That building is Kluge-Ruhe, the only museum in the United States dedicated to the exhibition and study of Australian Aboriginal art.

Curator and director Margo Smith oversees the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection. Photo by Amy Jackson

In addition to exhibitions of paintings, photography, sculpture and mixed-media artworks from its extensive collection, the museum hosts Australian Aboriginal performances, workshops and artists-in-residence, including indigenous Tasmanian artist Julie Gough, whose exhibition, “Hunting Ground,” opens in early September. Gough’s work, which explores the absence of monuments and memorials to Australian Aboriginal genocide and massacre, typifies the cross-cultural dialogues the museum empowers.

As the Kluge-Ruhe staff writes in an open letter published on its website: “Indigenous Australians maintain that much of their history of invasion, subjugation and genocide has been covered up by settler narratives contributing to a national ‘amnesia.’ We Americans are also guilty of willful forgetting when it comes to our history.” By reflecting on international whitewashing, we can recognize our own legacies of discrimination and injustice.


Upcoming at Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of UVA

September 15-October 8: Northern Australian artists Raymond Bulumbula and Joyce Naliyabu visit Charlottesville to reconnect with artworks made by their grandparents. The exhibit offers a rare opportunity for the public to meet Aboriginal artists who are still steeped in their traditional culture.

October 27-November 19: Tasmanian artist Julie Gough will be in residence. Her artwork is about monuments and memorials to histories of violence.

Through January 7: Marine sculptures made by indigenous artists are on view at the science library at UVA to raise awareness about the damaging environmental effects of litter in the ocean.

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