Lander & Rogers showcases the intersection of religion and identity with latest exhibition by South Sudanese artist

Sobur Dhieu and Joanna Renkin, Lander & Rogers, with artist Thurbill Pouk.
  • Lander & Rogers opens doors to third exhibition in its Gallery Project 35 series, featuring the work of Melbourne-based, South Sudanese artist Thurbill Pouk
  • Exhibition series an initiative to address barriers faced by South Sudanese and First Nations artists starting or sustaining careers in creative industries

Lander & Rogers has welcomed emerging South Sudanese artist Thurbill Pouk to showcase her exhibition Nyajal and the Pink Zebra as part of the firm's Gallery Project 35 art series.

Nyajal and the Pink Zebra is Ms Pouk's first major body of works, exploring themes of womanhood, identity, and her journey within faith. This journey is set against the backdrop of her South Sudanese heritage, creating a juxtaposition of ideas, concepts and questions.

Displayed in Lander & Rogers' Melbourne gallery space, Nyajal and the Pink Zebra is part of the firm's social inclusion initiative, Gallery Project 35. Now in its third year, the project was established to provide emerging artists with a platform to promote their work.

"Each exhibition allows us to provide an artist with the opportunity to exhibit and sell works to a new audience and spotlight the strength of their unique artistic message. The Project has demonstrated to us how engagement with often marginalised creative voices in our community opens up new understandings of life experiences and, as many of the artists have indicated, disrupts the space an artist has been allowed to occupy. This in turn builds new confidence and opens up aspirations and possibilities for the future," said Lander & Rogers' Pro Bono, Community & Environment partner, Joanna Renkin.

"We are delighted at how much each participating Gallery Project 35 artist has learned, whether that's been the power of curating a solo exhibition for the first time or understanding their rights as an artist and the commercial frameworks to ensure ongoing success," said Ms Renkin.

Migrating to Australia with her family as a refugee, Ms Pouk struggled to grasp assimilation into western culture whilst also processing the trauma of her family life. After arriving in Melbourne, Ms Pouk attended a Catholic primary school where she solidified her Christian faith and fell in love with Early Christian Art − the grandeur and detail captivated her, whilst simultaneously prompting questions about her own identity and belonging.

Ms Pouk's body of works represents this journey, which at times has led her to confront strange and difficult foreign questions and ideas. The title for her work translates to "Nyajal" meaning "girl/walk" or "girl/journey" in Ms Pouk's ethnic Nuer tongue, whilst the pink zebras are used to describe the complex foreign questions she faced as a South Sudanese woman growing up in Melbourne within a Christian faith.

When asked about the exhibition, Ms Pouk said: "My hope is that [the exhibition] is able to spark dialogue around culture, faith and identity and to showcase a nuanced experience of being a South Sudanese woman. The exhibition presents unique facets of my culture that may not be readily accessible to others and so provides an amazing opportunity to share these human experiences and bond over creativity."

Long-time supporters of the South Sudanese community, Lander & Rogers has established several mentoring and work experience programs, in particular the South Sudanese Business Response (SSBR) in 2018 – a response to the discrimination and social disengagement felt by many South Sudanese young people and their challenges in finding pathways to employment. The SSBR continues to provide education, networking and employment opportunities to young South Sudanese people, many of whom have gone on to work at the firm or in partner organisations. Gallery Project 35 is another example of the firm's commitment to supporting disadvantaged communities, creating connections that boost social and economic outcomes for its people.

Nyajal and the Pink Zebra is on display at Lander & Rogers' Melbourne gallery space from 26 March 2024.

Picture left-right: Sobur Dhieu, Community Engagement Lead and Joanna Renkin, Partner, Lander & Rogers; and artist Thurbill Pouk.

About the artist

Thurbill Pouk is a Melbourne-based oil painter. Her art is rooted in South Sudanese culture and reflects her personal experiences and observations within this community. With a profound understanding of the intricacies of her heritage and a keen eye for detail, Pouk’s paintings are a visual journey that showcase the vibrant colours, textures, and stories of her culture. She explores the intersections of Christianity and blackness, delving into the complexities and nuances of religion and identity. Through her paintings, Thurbill contemplates cultural norms and her journey of assimilation into Australian society.

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