In Profile: Meredith Arkwookerum

Pormpuraaw Arts and Cultural Centre

I was born in Aurukun in the late 1950s during the Mission times. I am a Kugu Mu’inh woman. My homelands of Thadjakulin and Konthe are situated between Aurukun and Pormpuraaw on Christmas Creek, Upan Waalang. I was forced to grow up in the Aurukun dormitory. Presbyterians ran the dormitory, the church and the town. In those days the last family groups were coming out of the bush so their children could get an education. During school holidays my grandparents took my cousins and I on walkabout in our country.

I love to dance. My father taught me to dance. He was a clan leader for the Wanam clan group. He was an important man and he travelled to Fiji, the Northern Territory and other places performing traditional dance. When I am dancing I am happy, honoured and proud.

When I finished school I worked as an administrator in the Aurukun Mission office and then at the community shop. Eventually I worked as a teachers aide in Aurukun, and then Pormpuraaw where I now live. I am now working for RISE Community Development as a supervisor. The women I supervise work with textiles and paint. It made me think that maybe I could do something artistic myself and the Pormpuraaw Art Centre manager encouraged me to give painting a go.

I started painting in 2018 when I was 60 years old. Art brings me happiness. I just love colour. I like the process of deciding which colours will work best on my paintings. I am inspired to paint my homeland and totems because that is my identity. I enjoy working with colours that are the same as the bird feathers, sea, clouds, grass and pretty flowers of my homeland. I like when other people look at my paintings. I think they are attracted to the bright colours I use. When I go home after painting at the art centre in the morning I use an application that allows me to colour-in images on my phone.

Painting keeps my mind occupied and I feel busy. I like the decision-making involved. It is a good stress reliever and I see how it relaxes other people as they watch me work. Artists here in Pormpuraaw use their time and talents to encourage other artists who are just starting out. It is a very cooperative rather than competitive atmosphere. It is an honour to be involved with Pormpuraaw Art Centre. It is a great organisation that allows us to produce artwork in a respectful and culturally appropriate manner.

I am new to the art world. I am very proud and excited to have my work chosen to be part of the CIAF 2020 online exhibition. I want to stick with painting because I can use vibrant colours, rather than pursue different art forms. I want to keep improving my skills and make beautiful paintings. It would make me incredibly happy to have my art exhibited elsewhere in Australia and other parts of the world. Hopefully I am inspiring other people in the Pormpuraaw community to give painting a go, it doesn’t matter what age you are.

I started painting in 2018 when I was 60 years old. Art brings me happiness. I just love colour.

Meredith Arkwookerum

Main image credit: Meredith Arkwookerum painting. Image: Pormpuraaw Arts and Cultural Centre

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