Redfern Indigenous Storytelling Tour For Art Month

On the final Sunday of Sydney's Art Month, Culture Scouts held a tour of Redfern's ‘Art and Indigenous Storytelling’. The afternoon started at Redfern Station with an introduction to our two leaders, Randal Arvilla and Carol D'Amici.

The first stop of the tour, well timed to miss the ever threatening rain, was the Redfern Community Centre. Established in 2004 to better support the already existing, and largely Indigenous, community, the centre houses youth programs, fitness classes, and wakes. As the centre director, Kristen, explained, 'it's a place that the community feels very comfortable being in.’ Being a part of a Culture Scouts tour, we were privileged enough to enter the building and see the Mana-ngurang mural in the Elders Lounge. The large wooden mural, made by Charles (Chicka) Madden and Nicole Monks, pays tribute to the traditional stone carvings of the Eora nation that Sydney is a part of.

Artist Adam Hill, best known by the moniker Blak Douglas, joined us to talk about his personal art practice, the influence of his graphic design background, and his multiple entries into the Archibald Prize. His portraits of Uncle Max Eulo, a 2015 finalist, and Christine Anu, a 2016 entrant, are hung proudly on the walls of the Community Centre.

Making the most in a break from the rain, the tour made its way to Reko Rennie's Welcome to Redfern. Combining graphic stencils, historical etchings, and typographic forms into one installation, Rennie pays tribute to the Indigenous community while using the remains of an old colonial terrace, similar to those that once populated The Block.

We followed our leaders to Hugo St Reserve where we discussed possibilities of what the Bronwyn Bancroft and Dales Jones-Evans mural could represent. 'Together we stand, divided we fail the future' was viewed by the group as representing spirits, displaced people, and the multicultural community currently existing in Redfern. It made us think about the art we’d seen so far, and the history of the area we were standing in.

From there, the group crossed the road to the Redfern Bike Depot, admiring the murals painted at least 30 years ago by an unknown artist. Showcasing the dreamtime and the matriarchal nature of many Indigenous communities, the paintings combine celestial beings with connections to land and family.

The celestial storytelling continued at Daniel Boyd's Untitled mural. Here we learnt about the role of stars in Indigenous storytelling and track making, and that Australia's Indigenous population were the first culture to take an interest in dark matter. Having initially been commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art before appearing in the 2016 Biennale of Sydney, Boyd's work examines the theme of darkness through suggesting the immensity of the night sky.

Travelling past Adam Hill's mural and the Redfern Community Centre once more, we stopped at the The Block. There Carol informed us about the Aboriginal flag, designed in 1971 by Harold Thomas, and now granted national status. We learnt about Australia's Freedom Rides in 1965 and the politicisation of Indigenous communities. The history of The Block was mentioned as was the continuing controversy.

Making our way back to our starting point, we stopped to see Hego’s large paste-up of Mr. Alfred Cameron Jnr, and acknowledged the role Indigenous Australians played in the First World War and the Second World War. Hearing Carol’s personal story of family fighting in the war and not being recognised in the same manner as non-Indigenous soldiers, reinforced the cultural and historical importance of the street art in Redfern.

Our guides - Randal and Carol

Our guides - Randal and Carol

Making our way to our final stop - The Bearded Tit - we admired the '40,000 years is a long time, 40,000 years is still on my mind' mural, painted in 1983. Observing the recent additions by Jason Wing, as well as the original work completed by the community, including Tracey Moffatt, the group reflected on the amount of art they weren't previously aware existed in the area.

The Bearded Tit welcomed us in and informed us about the Threadbare exhibition that was being held as a part of Art Month.

All in all, a wonderful afternoon of storytelling, art, design and history, was had by all.

Thanks Carol and Randal!

Giles ColliverComment