Roberta Joy Rich. Image: Zelé Angelides.

The Ian Potter Cultural Trust 21 Apr 2022

Roberta Joy Rich: traced.

Creative Development and Mentorship Program grantee Roberta Joy Rich is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work responds to and reframes constructions of African history and identity.

In early 2021, The Ian Potter Cultural Trust and ACMI devised a new initiative, a Creative Development and Mentorship Program, to support three Ian Potter Moving Image Commission 2022 finalists.

Through the collaborative program, each artist received $20,000 and mentorship from ACMI staff to support the development of their proposed artworks.

Multidisciplinary artist Roberta Joy Rich is developing the work traced. through the program. 

Rich's work references her own diaspora, southern African identity and experiences, responding to and reframing constructions of African history and identity with the aim of deconstructing colonial modalities and proposals of self-determination within her arts practice.

traced. is inspired by archival records of indigenous southern African peoples forcibly sent to Australia. In both colonial contexts, they were coerced as trackers by colonists and sometimes alongside Aboriginal men. Through traced. Rich seeks to create a reimagining of an African presence within the colonial-settler-nation context of Australia.

traced. follows the speculative walking journeys of southern African settler convicts & ‘Rachel of the Cape’ and ‘Black Peter’. Positioning the viewer as the tracker through an immersive multi-channel moving image installation, traced. reframes ‘tracking’ as an experience of tracing memory and connection to place and explores understandings between place and self-identity.

My personal connection to this work is bound to my family identity, known in the Apartheid regime as ‘Cape Coloured’. There is great complexity for people of this extremely heterogeneous identity as to how to place themselves because their lineages are both indigenous Khoe and San peoples and displaced Brown and Black peoples. Locating these identities in ‘the archive’ has ignited new developments for my practice and research.
Roberta Joy Rich