Jabu Birriny (land + sea) celebrates the unique environment of Yarrabah and its ongoing importance to culture and people so it was fitting that the touring exhibition was launched at its home – the Yarrabah Art and Cultural Precinct.
Our By Request Program Lead, Tallara Gray, and Exhibition Program Lead, Lisa Beilby, recently travelled to Yarrabah in Far North Queensland to prepare for and attend the launch. Tallara talks about her experiences here.
Wednesday 12th June 2019
Lisa and I began our journey in Brisbane at 5am. 6 hours later, after a plane trip and a long, winding ride through a mountain range in the rain, and we were finally walking into Yarrabah Arts and Cultural Precinct (YACP).
Darrell Harris, the Manager at YACP, greeted us as we arrived at Menmuny Museum. He introduced us to Jaivan, one of the artsworkers we’d spend the most time with during our stay, as he assisted us with the exhibition install.
We then went up to the art centre, where we were introduced to Eric Orcher, an artsworker at the centre and one of the artists whose works are featured in the Jabu Birriny exhibition. Eric was ironing a large pile of colourful t-shirts printed with the title of the exhibition on the front and 2 star fish (Eric’s artwork) on the back – others featured artwork from Philomena Yeatman. Both Lisa and I were gifted a t-shirt each, which was a lovely start to the exchange!
The crates carrying the artwork hadn’t arrived yet, but we got to work anyway. Jaivan had already prepped the free standing walls prior to our arrival. Seven new works were to be included in the Flying Arts iteration of the exhibition – they were already at the centre so we set about getting those hung first.
At lunch we discovered the corner takeout shop, which I would come to frequent and Lisa had her first serving of many hot chips.
Once the crates arrived, Lisa, Jaivan and I started setting the works out around the space. Curation was important to ensure that the artworks representing a range of artists in a variety of mediums and style, had their time in the spotlight.
At the end of the day, Lisa dropped me off at Koombal on her way back to Cairns for the evening. I felt grateful that my commute to and from Yarrabah was 15 minutes, instead of an hour like hers!
Thursday 13th June 2019
After a good night’s sleep, we returned fresh and ready to go! Jaivan and I hung the 2D works we had set out the previous day, while Lisa unpacked and placed the ceramics. Along with securing the didactics and signage including artist bios, this took most of the day.
In the afternoon, we met Patty Preece and two of her students from Central Queensland University (CQU), who would return the following days to interview artists and community members about the exhibition. They didn’t waste any time, interviewing Eric in the art centre that afternoon.
Friday 14th June 2019
By Friday we had fully installed the exhibition, but there was still plenty to do around the Centre to prepare for the event that would run alongside it that night. Friday Night at the Museum was an afternoon and evening of song and dance, and a fashion show displaying textile works made by Yarrabah artists.
In between jobs (writing menus, slicing bread rolls and such) Lisa and I went into town to the Yarricino Café, where we enjoyed a very good coffee. After lunch a meet-and-greet with musicians and Elder’s was held by another Jabu Birriny artist, Elverina Johnson, ahead of the Yarrabah Band Festival to be held the following day, next to YACP at Jilara Oval. Yothu Yindi and Barry Cedric were both in attendance.
Throughout the evening, Lisa and I assisted with videography and photography, as Jaivan who would usually do this was busy stage managing. We also lent a hand helping out in the canteen, serving lots of hot chips to hungry kids!
It was here that we met Ruben Ambrym and Valmai Pollard, another two artists whose works were represented in the exhibition. Joy, Darrell’s wife, made Lisa and I an amazing vegetarian lasagna. It was great to have this time to get to know the community better and start to form relationships that will strengthen over the course of the Jabu Birriny tour.
Saturday 15th June 2019
Saturday was the official launch of Jabu Birriny. We spent the morning helping out where we could again, and spending time with the Aunties in the canteen. It got very busy very quickly, as the Yarrabah Band Festival kicked off next door.
The launch began at 1pm (a little behind schedule) with a Welcome to Country by Nathan Schreiber, a local Gunggandji man, and his dance troupe of local kids. The Major also welcomed visitors, and Darrell officially opened the exhibition and thanked partners and sponsors.
Hundreds of people came through the museum during the day, and a considerable number viewed the exhibition. It was also great to see local regional artists supported through the large amount of sales taken on the day.
Patty and her team from CQU continued to capture audio for the project, including from visitors to the exhibition. The Minister for the Arts, Leeann Enoch also attended in the afternoon.
After the art centre closed at 5pm and we had said our goodbyes, we headed over to the band festival for a short time, but didn’t stay for long – after such a huge weekend, we were quite exhausted.
I got to see Lisa’s lush pad in town, thanks to Mantra hotels, and we travelled home early again the following morning. The whole trip was an enriching experience for all involved.
image: Edna Ambrym Mayi Bugamm – Sea, two plate colour etching 2017
- Contact our Exhibitions Program Lead for more information
- Jabu Birriny at State Library of Queensland
The Jabu Birriny exhibition was developed by State Library of Queensland in partnership with Yarrabah Arts and Cultural Precinct.