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Sharing essential stories through art

6 November 2020

Some of the art provided by the Doorways Hub, these pieces by Bronwyn Sampson.Some of the art provided by the Doorways Hub, these pieces by Bronwyn Sampson.

The NAIDOC 2020 theme – Always Was, Always Will Be – recognises that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years. 

National NAIDOC Week 2020 is an opportunity for all Australians to celebrate the rich history, diverse cultures and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the oldest continuing cultures on the planet.

Encouraging creativity and the sharing of stories around country, community and culture is the focus of a dedicated creative art space at The Salvation Army Doorways Hub* in Katherine, 270km south of Darwin.

The hub itself is located on the traditional lands of the Jawoyn, Wardaman and Dagoman people. The art program provides a studio space, canvases and paints, giving anyone interested the opportunity to paint and to share stories.  

Earlier this year, a group of artists who use the art space had the opportunity to exhibit their work at Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre in Katherine East.

Peter Daniels contributed two pieces to the exhibition, including a large piece of a skeleton snake and goanna. 

Peter Daniels with one of his works
Peter Daniels with one of his works

Peter, whose language group is Warlpiri, was born in Yuendumu. His painting style has been passed down from his father. "When I paint, I don't really plan too much, I just begin and let the image come together in my head,” he said.

"Going down to the hub to paint is a chance for me to have what I need to do my art.”  

Fellow artist Janet Dreamer said she has been painting since she was in her teens, but it is only through the access to supplies the hub offers that she has been able to start again.  

Her parents were both Jaru people, and Janet learned to paint watching her father and other family members.  

 Janet Dreamer with her three worksJanet Dreamer with her three works

Her subject matter includes stories, country and culture that she learnt from her elders. Her ideas come from time she spent in the bush. 

"I love to paint birds and kangaroos, anything from the bush, and especially if it's good tucker," she said.  

Godinymayin curator and retail manager Brendan Penzer said of the exhibition: “Art from the hub artists have connections to country and family in the greater Big Rivers and Central Desert regions, and their art styles reflect this. 

“Through art-making processes, the artists share knowledge about subjects such as dreaming and creation stories, bush tucker, country and landscape, plants and animals.”  

Dean Jones, senior case manager at the hub, says the art exhibition was designed to encourage artists emotionally, economically and to help them realise the worth and the quality of their art.  

Senior Case Manager Dean Jones in the creative space at the Doorways Hub.Senior Case Manager Dean Jones in the creative space at the Doorways Hub.

“I actually cried when I first walked in and saw the art on the wall,” he said. “It was beautiful, and I knew the artists would be so proud.”  

*The Salvos Doorways Hub daily welcomes between 50 and 100 people. They come to access the art space, showers, washing machines and dryers, meals, and drop-in community space. There is also an opportunity for people to connect with a range of local agencies such as legal and medical services, financial counselling and crisis support. 

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Sections of this article and photographs kindly reprinted with permission of the Katherine Times.

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