Mackay Aboriginal Art Exhibition

Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from Mackay are the stars of a successful exhibition that shrugged off the COVID-19 pandemic to go on tour through regional Queensland, culminating in a red carpet finale on 29 April 2021.

Eighteen artworks created by 11 artists between the ages of 12 and 24 have spent the past few months touring through major centres in the Isaac Regional Council and Whitsunday Regional Council areas before returning to Mackay’s Gordon White Library for the closing show.

On the final evening the artists and their proud families gathered with dignitaries including local state MP Julieanne Gilbert and Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson for the last time to celebrate. A Welcome to Country was delivered in their honour by Aunty Veronica Ahwang.

‘Captivated’ by artworks

Feros Care Community Development Coordinator Di Chataway said she was “absolutely captivated” by the quality of the artworks.

“There were paintings, drawings, painted emu eggs, an installation involving skateboards, all types of things,” Di said. “Some of the artists are still at school and quite shy about receiving recognition for their talent, so this has been a really good experience for them.

“As well as showcasing the artists’ creativity, the exhibition is also about building their confidence and resilience and helping them find the right path in life.”

Overcoming COVID-19 delays

The Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships (DATSIP) working in conjunction with Mackay Regional Council, Youth Justice and Feros Care originally planned to host the exhibition for Reconciliation Week midway through 2020.

However, the exhibition was delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions and rescheduled for the new NAIDOC dates announced for November 2020. When NAIDOC celebrations were restricted, the organisers decided to go ahead with the exhibition anyway with the blessing of Mackay’s NAIDOC Committee and local Elders.

Expressions of interest were sent out through the organisers’ youth networks encouraging young artists to become involved. Following a strong response, the initial exhibition opened at the Artspace Gallery in Mackay’s Jubilee Community Centre on 12 November 2020 and ran through to 3 December 2020.

Traditional weaving and curating workshops

The exhibition included a number of activities, including a traditional weaving workshop and a curating workshop to teach the young people involved the skills needed to mount an exhibition.

“It was such a success that Isaac Regional Council asked us to tour the exhibition through Moranbah, Clermont and Emerald, then Whitsunday Regional Council got in touch and requested that we continue the tour to Cannonvale and Bowen,” Di said.

“DATSIP did all the driving and setting up at the various locations so hats off to them.

“The final red carpet evening back in Mackay was a lovely occasion, with people coming along to admire the art, listen to the speeches and share in the mountain of pizzas we ordered!”

New connections a lasting legacy

Di said one of the lasting legacies of Feros Care’s involvement in the exhibition is the new connections forged with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations, including Mackay’s Kutta Mulla Gorinna Special Assistance School which many of the young artists attend.

“Whatever the next project is within this community, we want to be able to help and for them to know we are there to help,” Di said.

“As a start we’re going to join with our local NAIDOC Week organisers to support them in this year’s celebrations.”

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT WHAT FEROS CARE IS DOING TO HELP PARTICIPANTS REACH THEIR EMPLOYMENT GOALS AND WORK TOWARDS A MORE INCLUSIVE AND ACCESSIBLE WORLD HERE.

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