NAIDOC 2023: For Our Elders
January 10th, 2023
This year’s NAIDOC theme For Our Elders is an acknowledgement and a celebration of all the Elders both past and present who have contributed so much to their communities and families. This year is about paying respects to the Elders who we have lost as well as the ones who continue to fight for their communities.
Elders have continued to fight for equality and it is their strength and tenacity that has guided generations to where we are today. They are the cultural knowledge holders, nurturers, advocates, teachers and trailblazers who have shaped communities into what they currently are.
We would like to invite you to join us in celebrating NAIDOC this year and help us to honour and pay tribute to the theme For Our Elders. This year six of our collaborating artists created six new works, all centred around the theme for the year. Each new design is unique and a beautiful reflection of For Our Elders.
Merindah Gunya, also known as Bayley Mifsud, is a proud Gundjitmara woman from the Eastern Maar Nation who joined Yarn as one of our collaborating artists in 2022. She creates art as a way to connect with her culture on a deeper level and to expand her knowledge and experiences. Her NAIDOC 2023 artwork is called Koorrookee (Grandmother).
"This piece represents my beautiful grandmother Maude, the large woman symbol in the middle of the painting. In the top right corner is a star, representing her mother Amy (my great nanna) who is in Dreamtime. I come from a strong line of Aboriginal women and I am so grateful for their strength and pride in our culture throughout tough times.
There are then 5 people in the bottom corner, representing my dad, his three brothers and one sister. There are then 16 children, representing the 16 grandchildren of my nan's. The dreamy background is symbolic of stars in the sky, For Our Elders who are in Dreamtime." - Merindah Gunya
Alkina Edwards is a proud Yorta Yorta woman who joined Yarn as a collaborating artist in 2022. She is passionate about creating a variety of artwork and in particular her love is in cultural art. Her NAIDOC 2023 piece is titled Knowledge Holders.
"Within the artwork you will notice that I have placed people standing at the front. This represents our Elders who have paved the way for our communities and families. This acknowledges all the work our Elders have put into our communities and shows appreciation for their hard work, support, guidance, nurturing and love.
The background represents the lands we walk on and are connected to." - Alkina Edwards
Sheri Skele - Bigi Nagala
Sheri Skele, also known by her artist name Bigi Nagala, is a Bidjara woman and contemporary Aboriginal artist who joined Yarn as a collaborative artist in 2022. She paints as a way to connect with her culture and share her stories and knowledge. Her NAIDOC 2023 piece is called In Their Footsteps.
"The theme ‘For Our Elders’ felt perfectly relevant for this year's NAIDOC Week. It's our Elders' knowledge which is inherited from the generational stories and experiences of living on a particular country, and the exchange between generations of Aboriginal knowledge and cultural practices that so tightly connect and shape our community and identity today. The deep knowledge shared by Elders is continuously evolving. Their experiences of living in contemporary Australian society have provided them with another source of new knowledge which seeks to empower and unify today's generations of young Aboriginal communities.
Fundamentally, the contemporary colours I've chosen to use in this piece highlight the beauty and significance of traditional stories of the landscape and country. This isn't to forget the heartbreaking impact of colonisation and so much wisdom being lost. It also honours our Elders, who for more than 60,000 years have used ceremonies, cultural activities, storytelling and traditional crafts to pass on knowledge from generation to generation.
In this artwork you will see elements of Bidjara (my mob’s) country which is home to substantial Indigenous cultural heritage, Indigenous healing places, undisturbed natural bushlands, lagoons, wildlife and ancient waterways. This is the place where the Rainbow Serpent Mundagudda began its movement through the landscape and formed the waterways including the sandstone gorge itself. I also wanted to include the Aboriginal flag since it's a fundamental symbol for all Aboriginal people and our unity. The text embedded in the flag showcases what and who our Elders are and how vital their knowledge and presence is in connecting us to star, spirit, community, country and each other." - Sheri Skele
Caitlyn Davies-Plummer is a Barkindji woman and contemporary Aboriginal artist living on Kaurna Country. She creates art as a way to connect with her Country and culture and joined Yarn as a collaborating artist in 2022. Her piece for NAIDOC 2023 is called The Path They Have Laid.
"This art piece is a dedication to our Elders in honour of the 2023 NAIDOC Week theme, "For Our Elders".
The main pathway in this painting is a symbol of the path that our Elders and generations before us have laid. Our Elders have paved the way for us and are constantly sharing their cultural knowledge. The mountains symbolise the struggles and hardships our Elders have been through and how they have consistently shown their strength through their triumph. The campsite at the bottom of the painting represents the past and the top left campsite is our Elders today. The circle around them represents a circle of safety, symbolising to us to always look after, respect and listen to our Elders.
We would not be where we are today without our Elders. This painting is dedicated to all of the special Elders in my life who have guided me, taught me and shown me the strength culture has to pull me through even when times are hard." - Caitlyn Davies-Plummer
"This artwork is a representation of the strength and knowledge that our old people hand down within our communities and the hearts of our little ones.
We call them our Elders, Our Loved ones, Guider of Generations and Cultural knowledge holders. Lifting us up when times are low and celebrating us in our highs, they are the teachers, the survivors, the ones that bring tenacity and strength and nurture us into good health and well being. They keep our bellies full and our culture strong, sharing stories as we draw strength from their knowledge and experience. We always listen to our Elders, but most of all respect and cherish what they pass down! Our Elders hold a prominent place in our community and family." - Nathaniel Chapman
Luke Mallie is a Kuku Yalanji and Kubin Village Country man who has worked with Yarn as a collaborating artist for about six years. His art is inspired by his family and his Aboriginal and Torres Strait culture. He sees his artwork as a gift to help others see the beauty of Aboriginal culture and spread awareness of Indigenous issues. His NAIDOC 2023 piece is titled Connecting The Past to a Brighter Future
"Our Elders have seen a lot of changes in their time but always continue to move forward with a commitment to teaching the traditional ways through art, song, dance and storytelling. This is how each generation builds respect and we become contemporary custodians of culture and identity.
All things are connected. Elders create a connection to our history, bringing together Dreaming Stories and Country to preserve culture and wisdom for everyone. The meeting symbol is in the centre of the artwork, showing us coming together, being taught to be strong, overcome adversity, advocate for survival and nurture a sense of appreciation for all those who come before us.
The artwork shows the vibrant colour and beauty of our community, through the experience and wisdom of male and female role models who teach us important lessons. Our world is a brighter and richer place when we respect and honour our Elders, brightening the future through cultural knowledge, appreciation and a deep love for one another." - Luke Mallie
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