Logan First Nations artist shares her family’s untold story

Stories about conflicts in western Queensland that impacted Indigenous populations will be shared at Logan Art Gallery until early June.

Former Slacks Creek resident and artist Colleen Sam (Ngungurnnumma Kalkadoon) is currently displaying artworks based on her cultural identity and her family’s historic journey.

Colleen is a descendant of the Kalkadoon (Kalkadunga) people who lived in the region around what is now Mount Isa.

‘My story: the unbroken spirit of the Kalkadoons’ is one of four exhibitions on display at the gallery until 5 June.

Colleen and designer Keith Weribone (Mandandanji) have partnered to form Moonks Indigenous Art on Furniture.

Artwork in the exhibition feature paintings, furniture and rarely shared stories from the Kalkadoon people, including some from the deadly conflicts of the late 1800s.

The stories, which highlight the struggle by Colleen’s family to preserve Kalkadoon cultural knowledge, have been handed down through four generations over 140 years.

Most have been kept as family secrets.

Colleen said the time was right to tell the stories rather than see the events covered only in history books.

“It is the first time we have shared it in a public setting,” she said.

The storytelling includes the capture of her great grandmother and aunt who spent the rest of their lives separated, and in servitude, on different Outback cattle stations.

Stories are told in the words of Colleen’s family and revolve around how they kept their culture alive and survived invasion, violence, captivity, forced labour, restrictions of movement and stolen wages.

Others have described the stories in terms of extinction, loss, oppression and attempts to tame the Kalkadoon people which they didn’t relate to, Colleen said.

“The European version is that they broke the Kalkadoons. That is not true. Our spirit is unbroken,” she said.

We’re strong and we survived through everything.

Colleen believes that telling the stories through art, design and film has created an important resource for younger generations.

Colleen received a grant through Arts Queensland’s First Nations Commissioning Fund to develop a film recording her family’s story.

She worked with First Nations media company Double Wire Productions and Pixel Frames to deliver this powerful story in film.

Colleen is also the artist behind the Young Peoples Gallery exhibition ‘Mini Miners: finding ghost’.

This exhibition features illustrations from her children’s book about mining trucks Wilfred, Jai, Joseph and Patrick investigating the vision of a mystery ghost truck.

The other gallery exhibitions on display include Michelle Hamer’s ‘Are you having a good night?’, an exploration of the use of threatening language towards women through a series of handstitched and hand-drawn works; and ‘The warp and weft of the forest’ by Rochedale South artist Laila Aasand Bjornsson.

Bookings for all sessions are essential and can be made online at logan.qld.gov.au/gallerybookings.

Photos (L) Artist Colleen Sam. (R) The Creations Dreaming, 2020, acrylic on canvas. IMAGES (C) Carl Warner.

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