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First Peoples’ spirit stories told through new large-scale projection

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Kaylah Joelle Baker

Respected First Nations Elder, storyteller, cultural advisor, advocate, and artist Aunty Zeta Thomson is using Hamer Hall from June 7 to July 9 as a canvas for her newly commissioned artwork.

Produced by Arts Centre Melbourne in collaboration with RISING, the large-scale digital projection, Spirits of The Land, is a work that shares the beliefs and stories from both Ms Thomson’s land and the broader Aboriginal culture.

Ms Thomson is a descendant of the Yorta Yorta, Wurundjeri, Wamba Wamba, and Wiradjuri people, and through her art she strives to acknowledge Victorian Aboriginal culture and to share these stories with the wider public.

“These are the stories and beliefs of my people,” Ms Thomson said.

“This work is to pass on to our younger generation and I think it is overdue. It’s a way of remembering and keeping the stories from my mum, dad and family, and the culture they taught us alive.”

Included within the storyline of her latest work are Mookies, the Ancestor spirits of Country; Hairy Bekka, a creature that teaches children to keep safe; and Min Min lights, malevolent illuminations to avoid.

“In our culture, the old people would sing and clap our sticks or boomerangs together as they walked through the bush to let them [the Spirits] know that they were coming back to visit them again,” Ms Thomson said.

 

It is important to strongly represent Victorian Aboriginal culture for people to know these ancient stories.

 

Ms Thomson’s art has often had a special place in the heart of the city; she was the first Victorian Aboriginal artist to have work exhibited at the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum, and her Mookies Around the Waterhole work was part of RISING’s 2021 Arts Trams series.

Curator and RISING artistic associate, and Yorta Yorta woman Kimberley Moulton said, “it is an honour to work with esteemed Elder Aunty Zeta Thomson and to animate her stories.”

“Spirits Of The Land is a work that shares belief systems and stories that are not myths or folklore, but very real to First Peoples across the state,” she said.“These systems of knowledge are part of a network of information that manifest through celestial connections, creatures of the land and waters and a cultural practice that is over 2000 generations old.”

“This new projection work, which is an extension of her paintings and storytelling practice, is an example of the ever-adapting way First Peoples share art and culture and I’m so excited for it to light up Hamer Hall, celebrating the strong, living First Peoples culture of Victoria.”

Sprits of The Land will also continue to be showcased through NAIDOC Week, and it will feature in RISING’s new First Peoples exhibition Shadow Spirit at Flinders Street Station’s abandoned rooms. The free exhibition is also part of the Electric series, which is funded by the Victorian Government and Creative Victoria through the Melbourne City Revitalisation Fund. •

For more information: artscentremelbourne.com.au

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