Artists Colette Gray, Sherrie Jones and Jenine Gray of Tjutjuna Aboriginal Arts and Culture Centre in Ceduna, South Australia have collaborated with illustrator and artist Tristan Kerr to create a mural showcased in the heart of the Far West coastal town. Through a project called 'WAI' the artists spent time together workshopping ideas, exchanging knowledge on art practice and sharing techniques to formulate the foreshore facing mural. Colette and Tristan tell us a bit about their experiences in collaborating and creating the artwork for the community and tourists of Ceduna to enjoy.
Can you tell us a bit about the project “WAI” – What does it mean both in terms of the word and in terms of the project?
The Wai Project came about through the Ceduna Aboriginal Art Centre who engaged me because they were looking to create a project to be a celebration of Far West/local identities, expressed through visual texts and symbolisms.
‘Wai’ is a colloquial word for ‘hello’ or ‘hi’ in Wirangu language based around Streaky Bay and Ceduna. It’s a common word that brings together the community in the area.
The name ‘WAI’ in language means ‘hello’, the WAI project was a way of saying hello to the community and saying ‘hello there is community involvement here if anyone is interested come and join us if you like’ and we got Elders advice before commencing on to the wall.
What is the objective of the mural you are created as a part of the WAI initiative? What does it reflect and seek to convey or elicit?
The objective was originally to develop skills and to experiment with the artists and to exchange ideas about typography and also then for the artists to express their culture and their language. That was the objective behind the workshop but the mural allowed those ideas and skills developed in the workshop to be used.
The ideas with the type, allowed us to work on a message we could use to reflect the environment and the local community.
The objective of the mural was to send a message on who we are and where we come from, it was to send a message to all including tourists.
Your creative background appears to be quiet diverse – incorporating a mix of mediums and taking varied forms – How did you find the integration of your practice and with the local artists Colette Gray, Sherrie Jones and Jenine Gray’s own?
It all happened quite organically. Having three weeks up there gave me time to get to know the community and the other artists and allowed time for us to generate some ideas together. We identified that there was a quite strong sense of place amongst the community and the Indigenous artists. We came up with the idea of the word ‘Wilara’ which is West in the local language Wiringu.
There are a number of different communities and languages in the area. There was a lot of discussion about the word WiluraRa and whether it embraced everyone and it lead us to talking to elders to have approval on using the word in the mural.
You are a renowned artist from Tjutjuna Aboriginal Arts and Culture Centre - Can you tell us a bit about your personal art practice? What do you paint/create in your work?
I am a Kokatha woman from Ceduna Far West Coast, I was born here. Me and my mother are both artistic. I enjoy my art I mainly paint about sky, land and water the three main things in my life.
How did you enjoy working on this collaboration with Tristan and other artists for the mural? How it was working with an artist/artists with a different art practices?
I have done several murals before, I like to collaborate with other artists to build my skills and knowledge as well as involving other artists from Ceduna Art Centre. It was fun, I learnt new techniques.
Can you tell us a bit about Tjutjuna (Ceduna) country – It is right on the coast in the Far West of SA, we hear it can be quite dry with a harsh climate – are there aspects of the landscape, lifestyle and traditional or contemporary indigenous culture celebrated or reproduced in the mural?
The specific area on the west coast of SA is quite iconic. There is a strong visual contrast between the landscapes, you’ve got the richness of the red earth and the dark blue and raw beauty of the ocean there. There were beautiful geographic hues that we used, with symbols and abstractions of colours. We played with elements that reflected the spiritual importance for the Aboriginal communities.
Ceduna is right on the coast in the far west of South Australia. Tjutjuna is the language name for Ceduna. When I was born in 1984 the name was Murat Bay. The mural is situated in the community town and front beach the main tourist sight seeing spot. We used a traditional word on the wall called ‘WiluraRa’ meaning ‘West’ for west coast and I love how the contemporary colours go good with the traditional word.
What does it mean for the artists involved and for the broader community to have a merging of art practices, culture, language and identities in the form of a mural showcased in the heart of Ceduna?
It was a great opportunity for us to all in engage and we got excited to share our art practices and our techniques and ideas, there was a big cross between the inspirations of works and styles. We played with aerosol and used sign painting brushes and other tools. It was great to collaborate and put together a small body of work that we are lucky enough to showcase in some exhibitions coming up like the Oyster fest in Ceduna, where pieces from our work-shopping will be exhibited in later in the year.
I think it was an interesting experience that we have all benefitted from. In terms of the community the mural was about going back to educating and celebrating the Wiringu culture through the use of type and abstract elements. Hopefully it will be a known feature in the town and will be there for a while to come.
I feel really honoured to have work there and to have worked with the other artists.
The Mural means a lot to me as a member of the community. I like to see it as a masterpiece for the life now and for the next generation. It is a good way for the next generation to get inspired and to show them that graffiti is not the way if you want to do art you can do it in a good way and you can have fun.
Project facilitator: Tjutjuna Arts, Ceduna Aboriginal Art Centre
Artists: Tristan Kerr, Colette Gray, Janine Gray & Sherrie Jones