Ngarrindjeri, Nurungga, Ngadjuri woman Sonya Rankine was announced the winner of the Don Dunstan Foundation Our Mob Emerging Artist Prize during the 2019 Our Mob opening at Adelaide Festival Centre in August.The prize win will allow the Moonta Bay resident to build her business, Lakun Mara (Weaving Hand), which focuses on the revival and maintenance of traditional Ngarrindjeri weaving techniques and cultural practice.Ms Rankine impressed the judges with her woven sculptures, titled Lakun Mara 13 – Pinyali Pempandawi (Emu Basket) and Lakun Mara 14 – Partar Pempandawi (Rock Basket) made from jacaranda stalks, beach stone, waxed linen thread, palm inflorescence, and emu feathers.Ms Rankine spoke to Aboriginal Way after the presentation and said the award was a welcome recognition of her Ngarrindjeri culture.“It was a really big surprise, I think because it is all about being Ngarrindjeri. Ngadjuri is also weavers, but my weaving started from being a Ngarrindjeri woman, learning it from Aunt Ellen Trevorrow, and now I’m taking it in different spaces. I love weaving. Just love it” she said.Our Mob is now in its 14th year and provides many Aboriginal artists with a valued opportunity to exhibit their work, said Elizabeth Close, a Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara contemporary artist.She told Aboriginal Way that she first got involved with Our Mob very early in her career.“My first involvement with Our Mob was back in 2006 where I was on a bit of a downward track.“My grandmother had passed away and I was struggling a lot, and so to process that grief I went back to what she and I did together and I started to paint to process that grief. I painted one of the very few pieces that I painted. I entered into the Our Mob competition and it was shortlisted.“That was wonderful for me as a very, very emerging artist. I don’t think I’d even really considered myself an artist at that point to have my artwork displayed alongside some really incredibly talented local artists and artists from also the communities where I’ve come from in the remote APY land, so to have my work alongside theirs was really confidence-building for me to then continue to go on and develop my practice into the practice that it is today.Ms Close has a new work on show this year after having approximately a decade off and returning to Our Mob in 2015.“It is very much about my connection to country and that relationship that I have with the landscape. I actually use some different mediums. It’s a work that’s on wood, just like wood panels, and I used a mixed media of sand and paint as well to develop that work, so yeah, it’s an interesting piece of work, I think.Artist Greg Burgoyne has been an artist for 19 years, his heritage is from the west coast of South Australia, but the inspiration for his painting at Our Mob this year came from his stepfather’s country, he told Aboriginal Way.“Well, this story’s about the emu and the Milky Way. It’s a story of my stepfather’s country in northern New South Wales and lower Queensland. It’s been handed down to him, and it’s been passed on to generations before him and after him.“The image in the sky symbolises when the emus are in season, when they’re mating. It’s like period through the spring months where the weather conditions suit the animals for mating. In this painting, as you can see, the man is pointing at the emu in the sky, telling the story of the Milky Way, what it means to his people. It’s also handed down from God, as part of a totem, to everybody to share. It’s very symbolic to my stepfather, and to me too.Mr Burgoyne said that he values the way Out Mob allows Aboriginal artists to display the richness of culture.“Well, just to celebrate our culture with all walks of life, not just my own people. To show the world that we’re not just about chasing kangaroos in the bush, we’re about art and culture, as well, and embracing all cultures in life. We express it through our art, through our colors, through our color pallet, and through storytelling” he said.Artist Linda Bromley also said that the artwork she is exhibiting at Our Mob is an important expression of her own culture and emerging identity.“As someone who is only just reconnecting with my Aboriginality, I’ve been learning about song lines and what they mean, so I thought that this could be my song lines of my life” ms Bromley said of her painting on display at Our Mob.“Basically, it’s a visual map of what my life has been and the really significant things that have happened in it. Then, the colors are representative of my faith. I’m a Christian, so the colors are very representative of my faith in Jesus Christ.“With all the foster homes that we’d been in as young children, I just wanted to make it a swirly kind of thing at the bottom, and then my life really opened up and completely changed once we went into this one particular foster home. Then, I thought, “What are the most important things that have really impacted me and changed who I am?”, so those are the things that have gone onto my painting, represented by the circles, and also represented by different colors.“It’s been a very healing and therapeutic thing for me to put my life down and think of stories. It’s been hard because I want to do stories about our culture but, because I’m still learning about it, I can’t put down things that I don’t know. My family have been really encouraging and said, “Just paint what you know, and you’ll gradually learn more and more”. So far, it’s a very exciting journey” Ms Bromely said.Cedric Varcoe received a special mention in the Emerging Artist award at the Opening Night, and two other prizes were awarded: the Country Arts SA Professional Development Initiative Award, won by Rowena Williams of Coober Pedy; and the Ku Arts Our Young Mob Award, won by Leshaye Swan of Adelaide.Ms Rankine says that the focus on younger artists is crucial for the future.“I think it’s an invaluable tool that young people can have for their own expression. I think it’s also so important to inspire our young artists, inspire our next generation of Aboriginal artists.“We all doubt ourselves, and I think a lot of young people doubt themselves. To have this opportunity to present their art pieces here and have everybody there, and even sell a piece is always a bonus. I think the exposure, and the inspiration for themselves, but what they can gain from looking at other Aboriginal artists’ work from around South Australia, it’s invaluable, and I hope that it takes them far” Ms Rankine said.
Our Mob23 August – 3 October, 9am – 6pm Monday-Friday plus Festival Theatre performance timesQBE Galleries, Festival Theatre Foyer, Adelaide Festival Centreadelaidefestivalcentre.com.au
By Lucy Kingston
SANTS acknowledges that the land on which our office is based is the traditional lands for the Kaurna people and we respect their spiritual and cultural relationship with their country.