Philip Denham’s first ever solo exhibition, Gayjul Gunjuy, opened in October at Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts, Townsville. Presented alongside four other exhibitions, Gayjul Gunjuy portrays the storm story belonging to the Girramay people of the Murray Upper region. The exhibition featured an array of traditional handcrafted artefacts that reflect Philip’s connection to his culture and country. As part of the exhibition, the artefacts were transformed into an expressive display of art, consisting of the traditional fire making tool, Bagu and Jiman; the Cross boomerang, Birrubu Birrubu; and the wooden shield, Bigin. On display, were the traditional bicornual baskets known as Jawuns; the smaller baskets referred to as Mindis; and the Bumbil (traditional string) from the bark of the fig tree which he incorporates into fish traps, and traditional fishing lines with the hooked tendrils of a rainforest vine.
These artefacts have been created by Philip through the knowledge and tools passed down by his father and mother, Andy and Daisy Denham. Traditionally, these artefacts were painted with natural ochres and designs and Philip continues these traditions with his own contemporary style. Reflecting on the exhibition, Philip says, “I feel like I am living in two worlds, the past and the present, and I am bringing the past back into my future.”
During the opening night, Philip held the attention of attendees as he retold the stories of his homeland, and of the cultural practices of his ancestors. Following the exhibition, Philip returned to the Umbrella Studio to host a weaving workshop as part of an educational program with one of the local schools.
Main image credit: Philip Denham at Opening of Solo Exhibition Gayjal Gunjuy. Image: Girringun Aboriginal Art