Local Tweed heads business Recycled Mats creates mats from 100% recycled materials that are also designed for sharing cultural stories, so they were a perfect choice to create a bespoke Aboriginal cultural range for the Commonwealth Games. For the mats, cushions and pod chairs they were asked to supply, they teamed up with Bundjalung artist Christine Slabb. We shot Christine and business owner JJ Stranan a few questions following the event to see how it all went down.
How did the partnership with Commonwealth Games come about?
JJ: GOLDDOC held an information for tender event for local suppliers last year at the Gold Coast Arts Centre, I attended, it was here that I met Uncle Rusty, who took responsibility to ensure that as many Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders had an opportunity to share their talents and get exposure with their art & culture as possible throughout the events and ceremonies spaces and to ensure cultural respect of Country. I showcased to Uncle Rusty what I did and who I worked with and suggested that we could put a bespoke range together working with local Yugambeh / Bundjalung artist Christine Slabb to come up with pieces that celebrated local talent along with local story.
Can you please describe some of the themes / stories behind the artwork that was depicted on the items, and why those particular themes were chosen?
Christine: The story behind the artwork/ design is about Joongarrabah also known as Razorback Mountain, a peak that looks over the Tweed and Gold Coast Region. This iconic landmark is a vital part of the local cultural landscape. For many generations, this special cultural place has been significant in teaching “Garrima” respect. Respect for land, elders, each other and all things.
I have chosen the Joongarrabah story as it contains important cultural teachings from our cultural systems including Garrima (respect). It is essential for visitors to our homelands to understand “Garrima” as respect for land, elders and each other is the essential building block for forming healthy relationships.
How many pieces did you end up creating?
JJ: The Comm Games Festivals & Events ordered 10 complete “Garrima” range sets which included our Podchairs, mats and outdoor cushions which were used in a variety of VIP, Elders and children’s areas across several locations including the main BroadBeach area at Kurrawa Park. They are in fact returning all these to us this week and after a rigorous cleaning process, we will be gifting them to local charities in the Tweed Shire in a gesture that matches the Games philosophy themselves of sharing, respect and inclusion.
What has the feedback been like for you?
Christine: The response and comments we have received about the mats, podchairs, pillows and pods have been incredible. A lot of people have commented on the artwork and colours chosen for the Garrima collection and to see posts on social media with parents and children interacting with the Garrima collection is great. It’s great to see the Garrima collection being used as a tool to get people talking and sharing stories.
How did it feel to be a part of such a massive Commonwealth-wide event?
JJ: A buzz, an honour, excited, amazed, blown away! Oh, my I don’t have the words. It was truly a real thrill for us to think that such a large event (one that I have fond memories of watching growing up myself) would choose a little old business like us to work with them on something that’s so special and unique to this area. It was a big job arranging three totally different product lines from three manufacturers to come together to create this “Garrima range” but boy it was a ride and to share this journey with Christine has been a complete joy.
Christine: It was a great achievement to be included in a massive event. I can only hope that the Garrima collection has been used to bring joy into the people’s lives not only here on the coast but hopefully some have taken a piece of cultural story and history with them back to their homes. Personally, I love to see how the mats are being used right here within our schools, childcare centres and other community organisations as this feels like my contribution to the community and will leave an ongoing legacy after the buzz of the Games has long left the coast.