Steven Bekue: Deadly Dads


Yarn x Steven Bekue present Deadly Dads


AUGUST 15, 2023

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Steven Bekue is a proud Bundjalung, Yuggera and Bidjara man who was born and raised on the coastal lands of the Bundjalung Nation on the Gold Coast. His debut collaboration with Yarn features his original artwork Deadly Dads, which celebrates fathers and father figures as role models, teachers, and cultural guardians to the younger generations. 

We held our photoshoot at the beautiful Tallebudgera Creek with Steven, his cousins and his family to celebrate the launch of his collection. Deadly Dads draws on Steven’s own life experiences, from growing up surrounded by family and elders to becoming a parent to three beautiful children.

“I painted growing up, watching my aunts, uncles and cousins paint around me,” Steven recalls. “I'm an artist, so I tell stories of my culture through my art, it’s what inspires me. It's what our ancestors have done for 60,000 years plus. There's many storytellers in our culture - we've got the songmen, we've got the dancers. And this is my way of teaching my culture.”

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Steven created the design to celebrate the positive influence of fathers and father figures in raising children and passing on culture between generations. He loves to capture his coastal upbringing in his artwork, and Deadly Dads uses the blues that remind him of his saltwater country. The symbols show the journey from childhood into adulthood, featuring person figures, boomerangs, journey lines and animal tracks that represent the passing down of traditional knowledge and culture.

In his artwork description Steven writes of how “the artwork represents showing love and respect to all the fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers and father figures in our lives and appreciating everything they do for us. As fathers it’s important to be present and set an example to be the best role models we can to help guide and mould our jarjums (children) on their journey through the early stages of their life into adulthood, teaching them respect, love, appreciation and helping them to find the best version of themselves. To all the fathers and father figures doing an amazing job: you are appreciated.”

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Steven is passionate about teaching, sharing, and celebrating culture because he has lived experience in the purpose and meaning it brings to life. “I love how art connects me to my culture. I love how I’m able to share the stories of my culture to the world,” he explains. “I just love the healing side of it. It's one reason why I really knuckled down when I became an artist. For the healing side of it, the therapy. I was going through some dark times in my early thirties, and it sort of helped me through those times. And that's why I really fell in love with my art then, and felt like this is what I should be doing. It's so much more than painting. This is culture, it's not just art.”

He is proud to ensure his children grow up surrounded by culture and are able to explore and connect with it on their own terms. “My kids love it,” he says. “I sit down with them when I find time and when they want to paint. And they're storytellers themselves, really. So I'm looking forward to them becoming a bit older, when they can start painting for themselves and share their story, because they've already got that in them.”

“I'm very proud of them for how much they love their culture,” he says, beaming. “And I’m very proud of the little artists they've become already. It’s amazing. I just imagine they're going to be so much better than I am. But... I think they got a good teacher!”

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Steven also shares his knowledge of art and culture through his job as a support worker, where he teaches art and art therapy. “One thing in my classes I like to say is the importance of not just doing something, but of connecting to it,” he says. “It’s about getting that healing and, you know, finding some therapy in it. So I teach that in art. And I've got a few clients, young Aboriginal men, that I take out on Country. Because at a young age I sort of got in a little bit of trouble with myself. So being able to sort of guide them in a way, and show them that our culture is there and it's very healing.”

“And I also say to the young ones, don't ever go chasing culture or trying to force it on you. It'll come to you when you're ready. And I'm a big believer of that. I say I wish I was doing all these things when I was young, you know, but I don't think I was ready. So I think culture found me and now I'm in a position to sort of teach it to the young ones, and obviously acknowledge and learn from all the elders as well."

“But, yeah I believe it comes to you when you're ready and you walk along that journey, and you'll find out a lot about yourself just by connecting to culture and Country. Listening to your elders, listening to their journey because, you know, that they've had it rough. And our culture is still around to this day for only one reason. It's what our elders have taught us. And that's a big thing with this. It’s a design for the elders, the father figures. And in all aspects, we respect our elders.”

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Deadly Dads is Steven Bekue’s debut release with Yarn. It is available across polos, tees and hoodies, as well as a range of accessories. Steven dedicates the artwork to “the fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers and father figures in our lives” who are role models, teachers, and support systems to our young people.

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