By Sasha Foot
Showcasing Indigenous artworks has always been an integral part of NAIDOC week as a way of celebrating Aboriginal culture through artists’ practice.
As many of NAIDOC week’s art events are postponed, City Hub spoke to Indigenous artist Frances Belle Parker about having her exhibition rescheduled due to the COVID lockdown.
“I was devastated, but I thought it was for the best to postpone the exhibition until there is another time available,” she said.
Parker, a Yaegl woman currently residing in Maclean, New South Wales, was to exhibit her installation Sea Of Hands at the Royal Botanic Gardens from July 4-11.
As a recipient of the prestigious Blake Award in 2000, she has over 20 years of painting and installation experience.
This year the theme of NAIDOC week is Healing Country and Parker spoke about what this means for her.
“From my perspective it’s just about taking the time to listen to your surroundings and mother earth, being one on country,” she said to City Hub. “We don’t feel healthy and healed till we know the country we are living on is healthy.”
To represent the theme of NAIDOC week, 10,000 imprinted hands will re-create large-scale banksias across the Calyx Lawn in the Botanic Gardens.
“I came up with the symbol of three banksia pods because it’s a reference to resilience, so after the bushfires they rejuvenate themselves and start to bloom again,” Parker said. “Using Banksia… also speaks about the resilience of Aboriginal people and how we seem to come out stronger after being burnt and being hurt from the past – we come together to heal.”
The immersive installation will include sounds of nature and bushfire crackling, lighting that will illuminate the site, and a smoke effect.
The imprinting of hands is central to the creation of the work, and reflects the meaning of NAIDOC week in bringing the community together and appreciating the history and culture of Indigenous people.
The interactive lawn space will also enable the public to walk amongst the hands.
With the exhibition set to happen after NAIDOC week, Parker is certain the significance of her work will continue to resonate with the audience.
“One of the things I have found for NAIDOC week is [that] the theme is very relevant throughout the year,” she told City Hub.
It is expected that the exhibition will be rescheduled for later in July, subject to COVID restrictions.