Blak Douglas Visits St Finbar's Primary Glenbrook

 

2022 Archibald Prize-winning artist Blak Douglas was deeply moved by the cultural connections and understanding exhibited by students from St Finbar’s Primary Glenbrook as he visited the school for a special Indigenous cultural presentation and to judge the school's Young Archie competition.

“What can I say about St Finbar's?” said Blak. “It was a real tear-jerker to be greeted in Dharug language. That very rarely happens in schools but when schools are putting the effort into localising their cultural knowledge, then that's a very special thing and immensely heart-warming.”

The presentation explains the 'ins and outs' of the Didgeridoo and teaches students about the cultural origins and significance of the iconic instrument. Blak, a Dunghutti man, was joined by friend and Gomeroi man Mitch Chatfield, a well-respected Blue Mountains dancer who brought the stories to life as Blak played various Indigenous instruments.

"We are so fortunate to have Blak Douglas perform for us, as it underlines and exemplifies the important connection that we have with our Aboriginal friends in the Blue Mountains," said Robyn Clarke, St Finbar's Primary Principal. "The Aboriginal Cultural Immersion program that we initiated this year has enabled our students to engage with Aboriginal culture on a deeper level, and having someone such as Blak Douglas visit our school is, as one of our parents so beautifully put, part of the magic of being a part of the St Finbar's community."

“It was such a magical event,” said Yvonne Terweeme, St Finbar’s Aboriginal Culture Immersion Teacher. “To see the students so engaged and bright-eyed watching the presentation and to hear the Didgeridoo and all that Blak was explaining. The experience was a privilege for all the St Finbar's students, staff and parents who attended.”

For Blak Douglas, the visit was particularly special because he grew up in Penrith, exploring the National Park and lower Mountains. Bringing his 'Didge You Know?' performative workshop to St Finbar's felt like a homecoming of sorts, allowing him to share his culture and background with the school community.

"It was fun learning about Blak, his culture and background," said Summer (Year 6). "I found his Didgeridoo skills highly impressive. I am still astounded that I got to meet him and watch him perform many cultural dances and music.

“I was very warmly received,” said Blak. “The students were fantastic and are obviously receptive to learning about First Nations culture. It was such a beautiful celebratory thing to observe. I remember the days when some schools shied away from learning about Aboriginal culture and today lots of schools like St Finbar's are emphatic about the possibility of learning more.”

Despite this being his first visit to St Finbar’s, Blak Douglas, also known as Uncle Adam, has a special connection through his god-daughter Tilly Malaure. The Year 2 student was incredibly proud to introduce her godfather.

“When Miss Terweeme asked me to introduce my godfather, I knew I had to do it,” said Tilly. “I wanted to tell my school that he won the Archibald Prize and that he illustrates lots of amazing books. I was very happy to be able to help Uncle Adam judge our school's Young Archie competition.”

Through the presentation, students learned about contemporary performers as well as the traditional icons and their distinct playing styles according to Australia's traditional regions. Blak introduced the basics of playing and explained about a variety of instruments and their technical differences.

"Blak showed us some cool dances and showed us an amazing AIATSIS (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) map of Indigenous Australia," said Mila (Year 6). "He explained that there are many different Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander countries and how the mobs would communicate and live."

"It was a privilege to witness Blak Douglas presenting at St Finbar's," said Ted Langford, Jarara Cultural Centre. "His storytelling included a wide range of dance, songs in language, music, art and authentic stories from across Aboriginal Australia. It was a great cultural experience for the students, teachers and parents who were present. I believe everyone learned a great deal about the richness of Aboriginal culture from an awesome storyteller."

Blak Douglas won the 2022 Archibald Prize for his ‘Moby Dickens’ painting which is a portrait of Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens and depicts the disastrous floods that hit northern NSW in early 2022.

"As soon as I sat down I felt so lucky to be in the presence of a real artist and learn about someone else’s culture," said Sophia (Year 4).

After finishing his presentation, the acclaimed artist took time to join his god-daughter Tilly in judging the school’s Young Archie painting competition.

“That was really cute being able to judge the school’s Young Archies entries, especially to see my portrait made by young Tilly,” Blak said. “No doubt I'll receive that as a Christmas present.”

 

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Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese

Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese
www.parra.catholic.edu.au

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