Bhenji Ra (b. 1990)

Kamay Kalayo ( Hands of Fire ), 2020

22nd Biennale of Sydney, titled NIRIN. 

An artist and First Nation led endeavour curated by Brook Andrew. 

In March, the 22nd Biennale of Sydney unveiled more than 700 artworks by over 100 artists at various exhibition spaces across the city. Unfortunately, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, outbreak and subsequent social distancing measures, the citywide arts festival had to change its plans and people could only experience the exhibition via its digital program, NIRIN Online. 

The Biennale has now extended its program and you can visit the Biennale of Sydney at the Art Gallery of NSW, Campbelltown Arts Centre and Artspace from June 1 — and at Cockatoo Island and the Museum of Contemporary Art from June 16.

Campari, official partner of the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, has collaborated with artist Bhenji Ra. Since the fires and now COVID-19, Bhenji has dedicated her time to fundraising supporting artists and families who are struggling during these challenging times.

Campari, the Biennale of Sydney, and Shapiro Auctioneers are giving you a once in a life time opportunity to purchase Bhenji’s official artwork from the 22nd Biennale with all proceeds supporting artistic practices of the Biennale. 

Kamay Kalayo ( Hands of Fire ), 2020 
various acrylic, stainless steel cable, LED lighting, work includes 200 bottles of Campari Soda |
Exhibited: NIRIN, 22nd Biennale of Sydney, Galleria Campari, Cockatoo Island, 2020

Bhenji Ra
Artwork for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney: ‘Kamay Kalayo (Hands of Fire)’
Born 1990 in Warrang / Sydney, Australia
Lives and works in Warrang / Sydney

Bhenji Ra is a transdisciplinary artist currently based on Gadigal land, Eora Nation. Her practice combines dance, video, illustration and community activation. Her work dissects cultural theory and identity, centralising her own personal histories as a tool to reframe performance. She is the mother of Western Sydney based collective and ballroom house SLÉ.

Bhenji Ra

Aunty holds my arm up as if it’s floating on a seabed. She tells me to mirror her, her body a reflection of mine, my body a reflection of hers. Moving currents slowly form at the tips of my fingers, a tool to read both space and sea. She tells me to soften my focus, remembering this is an offering to receive and be received. An exchange of body and gesture. A diasporic dowry laced with blood memory and a mapping to home (bahay).
If reading comes from shade, then this is pre-Hispanic shade, a deep call to the ballroom girls and oceanic mothers, shared nails, shared hands, shared histories stored in the corner of our bodies, kept for ancestral turn ups and community hall balls.

Three things to remember:
Pangalay can be danced anywhere to any music
Pangalay dies when we stop dancing it (I sense we die too)
Keep elbows above shoulders

For the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, Filipina Australian artist Bhenji Ra engages Tausug Elder and Pangalay master Sitti Obeso from southern Philippines in performative conversation at the Powerhouse Museum. Bleeding the lines between ocean and land, traditional and contemporary, the original and the diasporic body, this exchange between teacher and student is a generous sharing of a relationship sustained by periodical visits to home country, the sharing of personal ephemera, and online messages across the Pacific Ocean. The series of performance lectures offers an alternative mode of cultural pedagogy that avoids reductive notions around performing culture and learning repertoire.

  • Measurements:180 × 160 cm
  • Labels:Campari will donate 100% of proceeds to support Artistic Practices of the Biennale of Sydney
  • price $By Application

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