Murri Girls into Art Indigenous Corporation (ICN 7536)
Rockhampton, Queensland: It’s not surprising that the exhibition that opened at the Rockhampton Art Gallery a couple of weeks ago (12 July) continues to attract attention. The artworks, made of silk and dyed in a Japanese Shibori style, are high quality, bold and culturally significant.
The artists are all members of the recently formed Murri Girls into Art Indigenous Corporation. Through their work they tell a story of personal development, cultural connectedness, and the power of art as a pathway back to health.
‘What you have to realise,’ says Sue Kraatz, the corporation’s contact person, ‘is that many of the women in the group are not well—they’re battling depression and other debilitating illnesses—but through their art and coming together they forget about their illnesses and for a time their problems appear to be much lighter.
It’s an inspiring story.
Five years ago Sue Kraatz was a disability employment consultant. Once a fortnight she’d arrange a support session for the Murri women on her caseload. She’d invite them to lunch and they’d talk. Gradually other people with different disabilities joined the group and they started meeting at the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens.
‘By this time we were all close friends,’ explains Sue, ‘and some people started bringing their sketchbooks and paints to work on their art after we’d talked and eaten.’
It became clear the making of art was an essential part of the women’s healing. They started thinking about taking it further—perhaps an art course at TAFE? The idea took hold. ‘We needed enough people to make it worthwhile for TAFE to open up a module especially for the group so I approached Mount Morgan Aboriginal Corporation to see if any of their members might like to join, and they did,’ says Sue.
The group—some 14 women—studied design, fabric dying and printing for two years. Forming a ‘company’ was the next logical step and 18 months later the Murri Girls into Art Indigenous Corporation was created.
‘A number of the women in the past couple of years have also studied business,’ says Sue. Their knowledge has proved invaluable as has the art/business consultant appointed by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. For 12 months a consultant from PricewaterhouseCoopers was on hand to give advice and help the corporation map out a sound business plan.
The large exhibition at Rockhampton Art Gallery entitled simply ‘Murri Girls into Art’ is the culmination of lot of hard work, determination, a clear sense of purpose, and joy. It is a great achievement.
‘For me, being part of Murri Girls and producing art means having a chance to create something beautiful in the company of like-minded women and forgetting about your troubles for a few hours,’ says Patricia Rose. ‘I always look forward to the days when we meet.’
The one and only aim of Murri Girls, as stated in its rule book, is to, ‘Bring together women, young and old, in the community for healing, learning, fun and laughter.’
It’s meeting its objective. Long may the good work continue.
The Murri Girls into Art Indigenous Corporation registered under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 in April 2011.