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A conversation with Cape York Traditional Owner Mel Gibson

 

 

During the lockdown, which was lifted on the 10th of July for the Hopevale area of Cape York, Traditional Owner Mel Gibson stayed busy as the Manager of the Hopevale Arts and Culture Centre to keep the local artists connected and painting while they isolated at home. 

This week she spoke to Rocky about how this quiet time with no Red Earth groups and no passing tourists has been an opportunity to reflect on what’s important in life.

“It’s important for us not to lose sight of what’s core to us and who we are during this interesting time. I’m a proud Binthi-Warra woman and the ties I have to my country are strong. Going back to my family’s homeland and passing down the knowledge to future generations is key. That’s where you find yourself and who you truly are.

It is pretty special place for me because as soon as I drive through those gates, I can feel the connection to my ancestors and the stories they hold there. It is cool to wander around the caves and along the creeks knowing that’s probably where my great great-grandparents walked, and that’s the water they drank. Knowing that they were once there is moving.

When I travel to someone else’s country I feel lost. However, what is inspiring is seeing the richness of other cultures and their own strong ties to the land. It makes me more proud about my culture and I get eager to know more about my own culture.

There is still a lot of racism and unfair stereotypes of Aboriginals portrayed in the media. That’s why I partner with Red Earth, so that we can help alter these views. The students that come visit, they might see poverty, alcoholism and drug in the cities, and although that might happen up in community too, we aren’t all like that. Every place has its issues, but there are a lot of good people out there doing to right thing. I want to show those kids that, because they are going to be the decision makers alongside our youth in the future.

We’ve been surprisingly busy, even though we haven’t been working at the Arts Centre. When social distancing restrictions were in place, most artists worked from home and we delivered the materials they needed to make their art pieces. One artist even set up her own studio in her home so that she wouldn’t be disturbed by her grandchildren.

When COVID hit, the art centre had to make some quick decisions so that we could continue to produce, share and sell the art. All the places we would normally print our textiles temporarily shut down, so we had to get creative. We had to think outside the box! In the end, QUT partnered with us and digitally projected the patterns that the ladies had created and printed them from there. It’s been a different process, but we did it and now look forward to exhibiting the artwork. Some of these pieces will be uploaded and sold on a worldwide digital market, which is cool! It’s exciting to see the new avenues which the artists can now tap into to get their works displayed and sold.

Overall, COVID-19 has thrown a spanner in the works but I believe we’ve all learnt new things and have adapted in ways we didn’t think possible. I look forward to things slowing down though and getting back out to Billy-Boil (Binthi-Warra Homeland) to sit by the fire.” 

 

July 21 2020  |  Posted by Rochelle Bath

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