A very special gathering took place at the Huon Valley Hub on Sunday to celebrate the beginning of NAIDOC Week and to launch a wonderful exhibition called Loongana (Run Together) curated by Deb Cobern with participating artists Belinda Casey, Deb Cobern, Bron Englert, Carla Herweynen, Gemma O’Rourke and Kris Schaffer.
Bron Englert performed the Welcome to Country and Smoking ceremony and Gemma O’Rourke performed the Ochre ceremony.
“We found ourselves being all women in this exhibition, it’s not deliberate, it’s just something that’s happened… the reinforcing of us as women finding safe space and sanctuary to share our experience, so our walking together, our weaving together, and now us running together, which is the title of this NAIDOC Week exhibition, Running Together.” Kris Schaffer.
We had the privilege to sit and spend time with First Nations elder Aunty Kris Schaffer as she was setting up her exhibition in ARTBOX.
“I’m Kris Schaffer and I’m one of the women who are here gathering together, running together, as an artist to present my life’s work on Melukerdee land.
[This exhibition] is my love and clutter, I’m a hunter and gatherer, a hunter and collector. Three quarters of this exhibition is my life.
My dog Winnie is named after Winifred Curtis, the amazing botanist who set up the botanical flora of Tasmania, the Students Flora of Tasmania.
Deb [Cobern] invited us to come together with this. I have been working in isolation for the past 30 years.
My exhibition is a timeline, it’s an invitation to come through where Trouwana/Lutruwita was undisturbed for 42,000, 60,000 or 100,000 years of Aboriginal people living with the land. Then you come through to the settlers chairs – female and male – the women’s chair doesn’t have any arms and that’s for the big white skirts that they used to wear, the chairs represent colonisation.
Just before the chairs, we’ll have the Recherche and the Esperance, the two sailing ships that came into Cockle Creek/Recherche Bay – the French naturalists contribution to documenting the Lyluequonny people who shared food and dance and botanical story. This is a major part of my bush essence drawings as an ex-print maker and fine artist.
From the settlers chairs and the naturalists story, the basis will be a sea chest that I’ve been taking all around the State with me and it represents the treasure chest that was where the Quakers, the Cotton family, had recorded the Tasmanian Aboriginal Dreaming Story and gave sanctuary to the Aboriginal people up at Kelvedon on the East Coast.
A lot of this is the stories that have evolved through Jane Cooper, Jane Cotton, and her incredible bravery of writing the book [Land of the Sleeping Gods], the account from her father and grandfather, the story of the Aboriginal people during that time of the Black War. Just across the road from where we are now [the Huon Valley Hub] is a building, it’s where Parks and Wildlife office is but it’s got 1830 written up on the top there – so for me that’s going to be something that will link this exhibition into the times that Aboriginal people were here desperately looking for sanctuary and how each person, each family, each clan had to have their ways of finding safe space and the keeping of story, the documenting and the containment of story.
We found ourselves being all women in this exhibition, it’s not deliberate, it’s just something that’s happened… the reinforcing of us as women finding safe space and sanctuary to share our experience, so our walking together, our weaving together, and now us running together, which is the title of this NAIDOC Week exhibition, Running Together.
This… for me… is like I’m coming back home, to be Riawunna, circle of learning. We’ve been getting the seaweed, the sand, the shells, the dogwood, we’ve been gathering ochre, we’ve been coming together and working together in a cultural sense, doing fire, Indigenous fire practice, so this is us as professional artists, finding our place.”
About the exhibition
“Loongana – in the language of the peoples of Southeast Trouwunna, the melukerdee nation – means Run Together.
Run together is an extension of the theme for NAIDOC Week 2022, GET UP, STAND UP, SHOW UP.
We are at a point in our journey where it is time to demonstrate our strength, resilience, and courage. We have been walking, and now is the time to step up the pace and start running.
It is paramount that we come together as a collective to add to the strength required to complete the journey.
The Run Together exhibition provides the opportunity to come together to experience the rich and ongoing culture of our First Nations Peoples.”
The exhibition will be in the Huon Valley Hub and ARTBOX until 28 July.
National NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia in the first week of July each year (Sunday to Sunday). You can support and get to know your local Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities through activities and events held in your local area.