In April, the Yalanji Arts and Culture Centre held an important exhibition Ngana meaning we ‘all us’ including the person(s) spoken to. The exhibition was held at the Mossman Gorge Centre and brings together the talents of eight established and emerging Kuku Yalanji artists who draw inspiration from their cultural heritage, rainforest landscape and shared histories. The exhibition showcases contemporary artworks across painting, ceramic, glass and textiles by Vanessa Cannon, Karen Shuan, Lorna Shuan, Karen Gibson, Binna, Kim Missionary, Luwana Spratt, and Laurence Gibson.
Karen Gibson, who has several pieces on display, including a painting entitled ‘Fenced’, says, “I was trying to come to terms with what it was like knowing our people (Bama) were fenced in. They had to ask permission to go out hunting on their own country. The orange colour in this painting represents the land. The barbwire with the blood dripping refers to the blood that was shed in the past. The figures at the bottom of the painting represent the spirit of our ancestors that are still out on country.”
Lorna Shuan also has a number of ceramic pieces and paintings on display in the show. Ms Shuan is a Traditional Owner at the Mossman Gorge community, and her art tells the stories of her country and people, and is an important way for her to pass the message onto the next generation and those in the wider community. Lorna says, “This is how we were brought up, respecting each other and respecting people and stories before us. The Mountain (Gooidbid) shows the story of the rock formation above Mossman Gorge. It's a Dreamtime story about all the animals that are in the rock.”
Vanessa Cannon from Yalanji Arts also has a number of paintings and ceramic pieces exhibited. Ms Cannon has been painting her entire life and says she learnt from her mother and grandmother, and that “my family and my grandparents inspire my work.”
Karen Shuan, a third-generation traditional custodian of the Kuku Yalanji people has nine paintings on display, which she says “are about history, storytelling, medicine, healing, and also cultural dancing.”
Andrew Gibson is another Yalanji Artist who has five pieces of clay work on show, many with traditional animals carved onto them including crocodiles and freshwater fish.
Quotes and images for this article were generously supplied by Karlie Brady from Newsport.
Main image credit: Karen Gibson with her work Fenced. Image: Karlie Brady Newsport