A Yarn with Artist Charlie Chambers Jnr

Yesterday we had a special visit from partner artist Charlie Chambers Jnr, who has worked with us for many years. We had the pleasure of sitting down and learning about how Charlie first began painting. We also got to hear about Charlie’s thoughts on this year's NAIDOC theme “Heal Country, Heal our Nation” along with his ideas for his upcoming painting, which will be a part of our 2021 NAIDOC collection.

Charlie is a proud Jarowair man from the tribe residing from the regions of Toowoomba, Dalby and the Bunya Mountains. He grew up in Cherbourg, a community west of Gympie. It was there that he listened to and learnt the stories of elders that he paints today.

When did you start painting?

“Dad actually taught me to paint when I was about 10 years old. When I was growing up in my teenage years I was doing a lot of labouring work; it was pretty hard yakka. People like my dad left me skills, like hunting, painting. So back in 2014, I got paralysed all along the right side of my body from a stroke. Couldn’t walk, talk, nothing. If I’d gone through it back in the old days I wouldn’t have been able to do it. But I’m glad Dad taught me how to paint, so now I can make a living out of painting. So that’s what I kept doing, that's why I thank my old man for teaching me how to paint at an early age.”

What inspires you to paint?

“So, when I was a young bloke I used to go on country and hear the elders’ stories….. I’d ask the elders for their permission if I could paint their stories. So each painting that I do is stories that were told to me by the elders of the community. Even though my elders have passed away I still tell their stories through my artwork….Keeping culture alive. My artwork is an important way of continuing stories. For me it’s difficult to write the story out, but if you give me a brush and canvas I’ll paint the story for ya.”

What do you think of the new Yarn platform? What's it like working with us?

“I think it's good recognition for us guys, a good showcase to actually get our work out there. I’ve worked with others who just use you and abuse you for ya knowledge, art and storytelling. But being with these guys for so many years they understand. They’ve given me something to fall back on. It's about respecting each other.”

What are your thoughts on this year's NAIDOC theme “Heal Country, Heal our Nation?”

“It’s a bit of a political statement, but yeah it's about caring and sharing cause we have so many overseas buyers and all of that buying up the land. So I teach everyone the culture and actually show the way... ….it's all about sharing and caring for the next generation. In any country you’ve got to abide by their laws and their culture so why not do the same here.”

Have you got any initial ideas for your NAIDOC 2021 artwork?

“The waterways; we use the waterways for fishing, hunting. When women would have their babies, they’d mark trees along the waterways where they washed their babies. If you go to Stradbroke Island where the cemetery is you’ll see there’s an old Gum Tree, it's got about 6 or 7 notches in it. These are the things that are along the waterways; it's about culture and respect for the land. With farming and crops and all of that, we’re selling water and all of the farming takes away the people….If you take away a waterway the land will dry up, everything dries up.. It’s essential to life.”

What have you been working on recently?

“So many old stories that were told to me by the elders…..I’ve got a vision of what they told me. So I produce these artworks for council pieces, there’s been a few projects there.”

You can check out some of Charlie’s beautiful works on his Instagram.