Indigenous artwork brightening the Hospital
‘Mirdilyayanthi’ is the Kaurna word for ‘to shine bright’ – a perfect name for the WCH Foundation’s latest exhibition featuring five amazing Adelaide-based artists whose work is shining incredibly brightly from the walls of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital!
Grace Bennett, Elizabeth Yanyi Close, Shane Kooka, Thomas Readett and Jackie Saunders are all currently exhibiting in Mirdilyayanthi. This exhibition, presented by the WCH Foundation’s Arts in Health program, is part of the Art Gallery of South Australia’s Tarnanthi festival – an opportunity to experience Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art in all its diversity.
Each of these five artists started making art at a young age and they share a keen drive to keep learning and mastering their craft from mentors, peers and through their family stories. They say art helps them to express these stories and connect with their Aboriginal heritage.
Many of them have also spent time them at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital as children and are keen to give back by sharing their work with the young people cared for by the hospital now.
19-year-old Ngadjuri artist Grace Bennett keeps her strength and creativity through her connection to the land and culture.
“I often yarn with my family about their experiences and stories they share, as well as talking about my painting ideas and incorporating my own stories into my artworks. I use it as fuel,” she says.
Grace’s paintings within this exhibition have been inspired by the first painting she ever created and her journey learning about her culture and heritage. This includes her personal connection to stars, representing how they can guide us in a positive direction through the night sky.
Jackie Saunders is a Kaurna, Kokatha, Ngarrindjeri and Wirangu artist represented by Tutti Arts. She describes herself as “the daughter of a saltwater woman and a desert-dwelling man”.
Jackie’s work draws on her strong sense of family and culture. It reflects her connections to both the human and natural world; exploring different weathers and the shape and movement of land, light and water.
“I’ve got my own style. It’s colourful. It comes from the heart. My mum and my dad live on through me,” she says.
Elizabeth Yanyi Close
In this exhibition, Elizabeth Yanyi Close, an Anangu woman from the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara, explores the concept of ‘wealth’ and challenges the notion that the landscape is only the sum of its parts.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people view country not as something to exploit, but rather something profound and immeasurable, something ancient and invaluable, something that shines far brighter than any precious metal,” she says.
Shane Kooka is a proud Wulli Wulli and Guwa descendant from Queensland and a long-time advocate for supporting young Aboriginal people.
Shane spent time in the Women’s and Children’s Hospital as a 12-year-old and remembers his mother by his side, teaching him their family stories while watching her make small dot paintings.
Shane’s desire is for his artworks to provide hope for young patients.
“As an Aboriginal, we need to keep going – there is no finish line,” he says.
Ngarrindjeri and Arrente artist Thomas Readett reflects on the wider world through themes of love, loss, and grief.
For this exhibition, Thomas reflects on past trauma and the act of rebuilding as he searches for the light.
“Making art for me is compulsory to the way I live. It is a therapy to help me work through things and keeps me staying strong,” he says.
Inspiring the next generation
These influential artists are breaking ground in their fields and creating positive pathways for themselves and others.
Presented in the Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s Blue Heart Gallery, it is hoped that this exhibition inspires young patients on their Hospital journey.
Elizabeth’s message to the next generation is, “Keep pushing, speaking, advocating, creating – we are the sum of our stories and we need to keep sharing them with the world.”
Jackie adds, “If you put your mind to it, then you can achieve anything.”
Mirdilyayanthi is on show until 31 January 2022. For more information about the exhibition, click here. The Mirdilyaynthi Exhibition has been supported by the Art Gallery of South Australia’s Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art.
*Please note: Due to COVID-19 there are visitor restrictions in the Hospital. To remain updated on this information, visit their website. www.wch.sa.gov.au.
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