Barbara McGrady: Ngiyaningy Maran Yaliwaunga Ngaara-li
(Our Ancestors Are Always Watching)

Barbara McGrady (with John Janson-Moore), 'Ngiyaningy Maran Yaliwaunga Ngaara-li (Our Ancestors Are Always Watching)', 2020. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Campbelltown Arts Centre. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous support from the Australia Council for the Arts. Courtesy the artist. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.

Exhibition Dates: 6 July – 13 October 2024 

Exhibition Opening: Friday 26 July, 6-8 pm 

Campbelltown Arts Centre presents ‘Barbara McGrady: Ngiyaningy Maran Yaliwaunga Ngaara-li (Our Ancestors Are Always Watching)’, a major solo exhibition of Barbara McGrady’s compelling photographs.

McGrady is a highly respected Gomeroi / Gamilaraay Murri Yinnah Elder and one of Australia’s leading photographers. Inspired by her deep spiritual connection to Country, she has celebrated Blak beauty, strength, resilience and excellence for more than five decades. At the heart of her artistic practice is a commitment to recognising the contributions of individuals to change society and their gifts to the future for generations to come.

The exhibition ‘Ngiyaningy Maran Yaliwaunga Ngaara-li (Our Ancestors Are Always Watching)’ invites visitors to experience what McGrady describes as “a kaleidoscopic compendium of Aboriginal contemporary history”. Deadly moments come to life through her powerful studies in movement, portraiture, and tender observations of Elders, leaders, families, youth, creatives, activists, and cultural warriors. Each photograph is grounded in McGrady’s deep connections to community.

At the centre of this powerful assembly of photographic works from the past decade is the large-scale film installation ‘Ngiyaningy Maran Yaliwaunga Ngaara-li (Our Ancestors Are Always Watching)’, 2020. This work is an expression of McGrady’s artistic career to date and has been acquired for the Campbelltown City Council Art Collection on the occasion of the present exhibition. Originally commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney for NIRIN, the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, and presented at Campbelltown Arts Centre in 2020, ‘Ngiyaningy Maran Yaliwaunga Ngaara-li’ was created in collaboration with artist John Janson-Moore.

The acquisition of ‘Ngiyaningy Maran Yaliwaunga Ngaara-li (Our Ancestors Are Always Watching)’, 2020 to the Campbelltown City Council Art Collection is made possible through the generous support of Jo-Anne Birnie-Danzker and Maryrose and Michael Morgan.

The exhibition is presented by Campbelltown Arts Centre with support from the Australian Museum and with photographic reproduction permissions from the State Library of New South Wales.

About Barbara McGrady    

Barbara McGrady is a Gomeroi / Gamilaraay Murri Yinnah artist who was born in 1950 in Mungindi on the border of New South Wales and Queensland. From a young age, Barbara was an avid reader of publications including Time, Life, Paris Review, Punch, Esquire and Playboy brought home by her father. They featured Blak writers such as James Baldwin, Alex Haley, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Barbara states, “at a very young age, I saw the power of the image.” She recounts taking photos with a camera which her mother bought for her aged fifteen.

Moving to Glebe in 1972, Barbara played an integral role in the Blak power movement of Koori and Murri people from all over the country who came together in self-determination towards the common goal of making change for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Trained as a sociologist, Barbara brings a Blak lens to her practice. She has been described by Gumbaynggirr activist and academic Professor Gary Foley as a “true historian” and “National Living Treasure”. In 2017, Barbara presented her solo exhibition ‘Always Will Be’ at the Australian Centre for Photography. In 2020, she was selected to participate in the landmark First Nations and artist led 22nd Biennale of Sydney, NIRIN, presenting major works at Campbelltown Arts Centre and Art Gallery of New South Wales. In 2014, Barbara was awarded the Anthony Mundine Award for Courage at the inaugural National Indigenous Human Rights Awards and in 2015, she won the Solid Screen International Award for Indigenous Women in Film and Photography. Her works are held in the collections of several national, state and regional institutions including the Australian Museum, Sydney, State Library of New South Wales and Campbelltown City Council Art Collection.


Artist: Barbara McGrady 

Consultant and Co-Artist ‘Ngiyaningy Maran Yaliwaunga Ngaara-li’ (Our Ancestors are Always Watching): John Janson-Moore 

Curator: Isabelle Morgan

Arts and Cultural Liaison Officer – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander: Sarah Morris

Assistant Curator: Emily Rolfe

Exhibition Design: Donna Vo

Communications: Ellen Formby

Production Lead: Frank Mainoo Boambah

Gallery Technicians: Nicci Bedson, Ju Bayvka, Corrigan Fairbairn, David Langosch, Jack Poppert, Thomas Sandberg, Lucy Whitelaw



First Nations Division, Australian Museum