Layers of Blak exhibition returns for a second year

Kaylah Joelle Baker

Eleven Victorian First Nations Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and designers have been chosen for their unique talents and ideas to present their stories through exquisite contemporary jewellery.

Taking layered jewellery to a new meaning, the completed works, which will be displayed at the Koorie Heritage Trust from October 1 until February 19, will unveil stories of healing, resilience, collaboration and empowerment.

Selected as a First Nations artist to participate in being taught new skills in jewellery making and refining what jewellery means through the use of found objects and natural materials, is Nikki Browne.

As a Wurundjeri country-based Bidjara artist who works mainly in sculptures, Ms Browne is inspired by her love of Country, environment, wildlife and culture.

“My sculpture pieces are always predominantly related to Country and everything has to have a message and a story, so normally my stories are about protecting the environment, our waterways, and our Country,” she said.

“[Jewellery making] is just another medium to express that.”

Ms Browne’s jewellery has come together through the use of gifted sea urchin shells, sewing machine cogs she found and gum leaves that fell upon her one day and spoke into a memory from her childhood.

“Growing up, my mum’s best friend had this great big blue gum tree with these amazing big gum leaves, and I used to paint them and gift them to my family for Christmas,” she said.

“The sea urchin shells and the gum leaves talk to protecting Country, and they link together with the sewing machine cogs which speak to the industry [sector] needing to make smarter, more eco-friendly choices.”

“It represents care for Country, our old-growth forests being logged and pollution.”

As a program that allowed Ms Browne to encourage everyone to “all do a small part to help the environment”, she said it was one of the best things she had ever done.

“I am so chuffed to have been a part of it and come out with such an amazing experience,” she said. “I cannot thank Koorie Heritage Trust, the artists, designers, jewellers and everyone involved enough for their time and support.”

“We have come from all different places and have come out with new friendships, a community and an absolutely amazing experience, and people will be quite moved by the collection of work.”

Following the exhibition, the participating artists will find continual support as the program strives to foster First Nations cultural innovation within the Victorian design sector.

The Layers of Blak exhibition is an outcome from the Blak Design program, a program developed in partnership with the National Gallery of Victoria and RMIT University with the support of the Ian Potter Foundation.

Among the selected participants with work displayed are Thelma Austin (Gunditjmara), Mandi Barton (Yorta Yorta/Barapa Barapa/Wemba Wemba), Lorraine Brigdale (Yorta Yorta), Deanne Gilson (Wadawurrung), Tammy Gilson (Wadawurrung), Elijah Money (Wiradjuri), Yasmin Silveira (Palawa), Sammy Trist (Taungurung), Dominic White (Palawa) and Tracy Wise (Barkindji Ngiyampaa Maligundidj). •


Captions: Nikki Brown,. Photo: Christian Capurro.

STOP KILLING COUNTRY by Nikki Browne (Bidjara). Photo: Fred Kroh.

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