Keeping the Country Well at Midcoast

Yalawanyi Ganya’s first exhibition.

The public gallery space at MidCoast Council’s admin centre – Yalawanyi Ganya – has an inaugural exhibit close to curator Rachel Piercy’s heart.

Saltwater Freshwater weavings – a collaboration between local Aboriginal Elders and community members, including Aunty Lynnette Davis, Angie Davis and Jai Ord, Aunty Pam Saunders, and Joedie Lawler. Created after the devastating bushfires of 2019.

Rachel is the Director of Manning Regional Art Gallery. First and foremost she is a proud Murrawarri woman whose culture always drove her passion for art.

The theme of the exhibition is about the strength and resilience of First Nations people and what has been described as the cultural renaissance currently taking place in South-eastern Australia.

This exhibition gives an insight into the strength and resilience of the custodians of the land we live and work on, the Biripi and Worimi people,” explained Rachel.

Titled Barray marrung duumu, meaning ‘Keep Country well,’ it is a reflection of and ode to the groundswell of interest and revival of culture in our area.”

Leading aspects of the cultural revival include the creation of canoes, weapons, possum skin cloaks, tools and weaving baskets, speaking language, performing ceremonies and caring for Country.

Gathang is the language of the Birrbay, Warrimay and Guringay people and the revival of their language ignites a deeper connection to the land.

As Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones said:

This region is commonly recognised as ground zero within Aboriginal colonial history. Kooris are dogged with stale one-liners about the loss of culture. Culture was damaged but not destroyed.

Our fires have not gone out, they are still burning – sometimes just embers mixed with memories but with the guidance of our Elders and the enthusiasm of many, the fires are being stoked and the south-east is alight.”

The exhibition includes Biripi and Worimi weavings created at the Manning Regional Art Gallery during the devastating fires of 2019. Community members used the safe and cool space of the gallery to share stories of the area with Aboriginal weavers and Elders as part of the Saltwater Freshwater Aboriginal Art Award and Cultural Object Touring exhibition.

The resulting works are stunning examples of Aboriginal cultural practice, which can be shared with all,” said Rachel.

We just love the space, it adds another beautiful, cultural element to Yalawanyi Ganya and it’s been lovely to see staff as well as the public taking a moment to enjoy it.”

Also among the works are the original pieces by local artists Brittany Cochrane and Raechel Saunders that were selected to have elements incorporated in the design of the building.

‘Living as One on Biripi Country’ and ‘Connected’ feature prominently on, and in, the building.

The opening exhibition ends on Friday 30 April.