Artist Abdul Abdullah describes himself as an outsider among outsiders, whose practice is primarily concerned with marginalised minority groups such as Muslim youth.

So the seventh-generation Australian Muslim and critically acclaimed UNSW Arts & Design alumnus jumped at an invitation from APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunyiatjara) artists to be involved in a groundbreaking exhibition.

Led by young male APY artists from north-west South Australia, Weapons for the Soldier brings together 41 Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to draw on and reflect the complex themes of weaponry, warfare, and protecting land and country.

It is the first time that members from APY Lands have invited non-Indigenous artists to participate in an exhibition, which shows the diverse perspectives of struggle and survival, and deepens understandings of a shared history. 

“They were interested in how weapons and warfare relate to resistance, resilience and keeping cultures strong,” Abdullah says. 

The artist has two paintings in the exhibition, which also features new works by UNSW alumni Brook Andrew, Shaun Gladwell and Alex Seton. 

Abdullah was invited by the APY Lands leaders: Vincent Namatjira (son of Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira), Robert Fielding and Anwar Young. 

Abdul Abdullah, We can work it out. Courtesy of the artist 

“My ideas for the exhibition reference how war and destruction is perceived, and how it is framed by the perpetrators,” Abdullah says.

Abdul Abdullah, We can make it work. Courtesy of the artist 

“My work is less about a message and more about a feeling, and touches on how the enormous tragedy of war is almost too big to comprehend. 

“It also explores how we engage with war through media, and how that filters what we see.”

Abdullah is a four-time finalist in the Archibald Prize, a third-time finalist in the Sulman Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2019 Venice Biennale. 

He has exhibited in New York, Singapore and at the MCA in Sydney. 

Abdullah’s unique perspective was reflected in his Tedx Talk Combating Prejudice with Art.

Weapons for the Soldier exhibition continues at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre until February 3.