Reflections from Country at NAIDOC exhibition

Published on 27 June 2022

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Deep stories from Country will resonate as four First Nations artists combine to present a special exhibition, Show Up! in Anglesea to celebrate NAIDOC Week.

Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Jenna Oldaker and BJ O’Toole, Worimi man Gerard Black and Wagiman man Nathan Patterson will share their works to help elevate the week’s messages of cultural recognition and celebration.

Surf Coast Shire Council is presenting the exhibition at Anglesea Art Space as its community celebration for NAIDOC Week.

Jenna Oldaker’s works will include a piece created in response to this year’s NAIDOC theme Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!

“After I heard that I was really inspired to create something that was really specific to the exhibition and to NAIDOC Week itself,’ she said.

“It recognises how far we’ve come and all that our Elders have had to endure and we continue to endure now, as well as how we need to stand together to drive and navigate change.

“I think art can bring people together to open up those conversations and say what does that event stand for? Why do you celebrate this? It brings community together.”

The work is titled Bengadak (Us Mob).

Jenna said she feels a powerful responsibility as she immerses in her culture while creating her works.

“I try to feel and see and experience being on Country. I feel like it’s a responsibility especially to my Ancestors, and my grandmother Aunty Violet McPherson who is 95.

“I just want to make sure that everything that I do would do them proud and be for them, and that everything they have taught us lives on.

“It feels like you’ve got to do it justice.”

BJ O’Toole said his experiences working as a Cultural Heritage Representative with Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation plays a strong role informing his art.

”It’s strange because it starts off obviously with a blank canvas, then everything just comes to mind,” he said.

“What I’ve learnt at a particular site that I’ve worked on maybe last week, or three months ago. All of my thoughts just come from my experience in the field.

“For any new developments that take place we go out there first and walk over the site, do a testing methodology which best suits the site and we usually find all of the artefacts – shell middens, ancestral remains, all sorts of things left behind from thousands of years ago.”

NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia from 3 to 10 July to celebrate and recognise the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

BJ said the week held special meaning.

“NAIDOC means a lot of things personally as an Aboriginal person, honouring the past and acknowledging that our culture is so strong still in today’s society and it’s breathing.

“We’ve survived, and hopefully moving forward we can have a lot better future.”

Surf Coast Shire Councillor Rose Hodge said the Show Up! exhibition would provide a welcoming space for reflection and learning.

“We are fortunate to have four such talented artists sharing their beautiful work and all that it represents,” Cr Hodge said.

“As a Council we are proud to be celebrating NAIDOC Week alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.”

“These artists and their works can help us do that by enriching our understanding and appreciation of First Nations culture and of depth of connection to Country.”

The Show Up! exhibition will run from 30 June to 19 July and will feature art for sale.

Anglesea Art Space is at Shop 2, 103 Great Ocean Road and is open 10am-3pm Wednesday to Sunday.

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