Aboriginal art has been the source of much contention between art curators, gallery owners, art critics and Aboriginal artists themselves. Early aesthetic debates about whether so-called traditional works should be considered ethnographic or artistic have led, at times, to conflicts over the rights of Aboriginal people to have their works exhibited according to the criteria applied to other kinds of Western artworks. This article explores how the dilemmas of troubled ethno-histories are critically embodied and reconfigured in texture and colour. It considers the problems that silenced histories pose for those responsible for their display to the public. As Aboriginal images often conceal troubled intercultural encounters it asks how artworks can be used to provide a counter-polemic to national rhetoric as artists seek to reshape and improve intergenerational futures. This text is published as a counterpart to the contribution to Disturbing Pasts from the artist Heather Kamarra Shearer.