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Artists and cultural advisors were present at what turned out to be an unexpectedly lively ribbon-cutting launch included Ngambri-Ngunnawal elder Matilda House, artist Daniel Williams and Ngunnawal elders Carl, Tina and Adrian Brown.
Two separate works have been painted on the outer walls of the Watson Pharmacy. One was created respectively by Dr House with her nephew Daniel Williams, and the other by brother and sister artists Adrian and Tina Brown.They are the first public artworks created under the new “Two Way” project spearheaded by researchers from the Australian National University and supported by ACT Transport Canberra and City Services, the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences and the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research.
The plan is to work on further community art projects across a range of mediums.
Project leader from the ANU, Kirrily Jordan, said the project aimed to bring to light issues of concern to local Indigenous people and build public awareness around relevant policy issues.
“There is a lot of power in public art, you don’t have to go to a gallery, its right there in the street,” Dr Jordan added.
“We are facilitating traditional owners in Canberra and Queanbeyan to tell their stories in new ways, in a visual format that will be open to the public.”Dr House said she and Williams had related their painting technique to “our country style”, not the dot paintings of Northern Australia. She told those present that she had been approached by the ANU and the ACT government to get in the project, which she believed would benefit the children at the nearby primary school who would respond to the animal images in the painting.
“Everything we ever do on country is always important,” she said.
Williams, after welcoming visitors to the opening with a performance on the didgeridoo, described how he, his aunt and his young daughters had created the large picture, topped with a cross, of land, waters, ducks and fish of the immediate region.
Adrian Brown described how he and his sister Tina had painted the Murray cod motif in their large, semi-abstracted mural to connect thematically to a bigger story of Aboriginal resilience.
Patrick Nolan, manager of programs at the ACT Transport Canberra and City Services, spoke of the community impact of the venture.
Dr Jordan said she was planning a series of workshops through 2018 to bring together different representatives from Indigenous communities in Canberra with the idea of identifying priorities to be addressed by the program.
“Once we’ve identified those priorities we can put in applications for funding to get those projects off the ground,” she said.