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26 Apr 2018

Aboriginal culture brought to life at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah

The Standing Up Alive exhibit at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah is a celebration of Aboriginal culture and life. It shows us how the Aboriginal communities are not only surviving, but thriving and alive! Learn more about the amazing and detailed stories behind their artwork below.

The Standing Up Alive exhibit, from the 19 March – 13 May 2018, is a vibrant display from five local Blue Mountains Artists. The gallery is an Aboriginal expression that perfectly describes how the local communities are not only still going, but are dynamic and alive.

The five artists: Wayne Brennan, Shane Smithers, Chris Tobin, Leanne Tobin and Uncle Peter Williams, all use the power and connection to their local heritage, symbols and patterns in a contemporary way to create incredible pieces of work.

We had the opportunity to talk with Shane Smithers and Leanne Tobin, who told us about themselves and the intricate story behind their artwork. 

Shane Smithers

Shane is a Darung man of the Burraberongal clan who trained at Macquarie University and has a PhD in Philosophy. His work as an artist includes painting, carving and sculpting in a range of materials. He aims to tell ancient and modern stories through the use of traditional Aboriginal designs.
The Flying Kangaroo - Shane Smithers

One of the most eye-catching pieces in this exhibit is the Flying Kangaroo. Shane explained how the central figure, a Kangaroo, is actually “the representation of a clever man flying through the sky. The Kangaroo’s name is Badagarang and he has his place in the pantheon of Aboriginal Lore. When is a kangaroo not a kangaroo? In this case when he is a clever man represented from the dreamtime as a kangaroo.”

In Darug traditional painting, sky is represented by the vertical lines in the painting, and in this image the significance and power of the relationship between the figure and his connection to the sky is further signalled by the lines wrapping around the figure, giving him body, while showing his profound connection to the sky and the sky father.  

Leanne Tobin

Leanne is descended from Western Sydney (Darug country) but was born in Waratah, living there for two years after her birth she has spent the majority of her life in her Traditional country. Leanne uses her art to tell local stories and to evoke an environmental conscience and respect towards the land and its original people. Her work seeks to connect the observer with the land they stand on, highlighting their shared role in caring for country while also conveying the intrinsic spiritual connection Aboriginal people have with the land; a connection that is often hidden beneath the concrete and tar of the city and suburbs.  

The Humble Petitioner - Leanne Tobin

‘The Humble Petitioner’ is a complex piece of work, with incredible detail. One of the first works you see in this exhibit, the painting depicts Maria Lock; a legendary figure in many Darug families as she was the first Aboriginal woman to be awarded a land grant in a time where being Aboriginal and a woman meant a life of hard work and servitude.

“She was a remarkable and tenacious woman, and was one of the first educated in the ‘white fella’ way. Using her literacy, she left her children a legacy of over a hundred acres, that she had acquired through petitioning the government for her own land grant, thus negotiating the return of part of her traditional Darug land” explains Leanne.

This painting shows Maria writing her numerous letters to the governor. She would sign these letters as ‘your humble petitioner’. The possum on her shoulder is a collective Boorooberongal totem; the rabbit escaping alludes to the English and the feral element they introduced in their ignorance about country.

This incredible painting not only beautiful, but incredibly telling of a truly inspirational woman.

If you would like to see these images in person, and hear from Shane, Leanneand the three other exhibiting artists themselves, then join us at the Blue Mountain Botanic Garden's Visitor Centre the artist Meet and Greet on the 5 May at 2.00 pm.  Shane will be performing a welcome to country, followed by talks by all the artists on their work and inspirations. There will also be a special aboriginal dance performance by Uncle Peter’s dancers.

The exhibit is open until the 13 May 2018, and all artwork is on sale. We’d love to see and hear all about your visit to the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens, so be sure to tag us on Instagram or Twitter.

Category: News
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