Kojonup School Students’ Art Exhibition Attracts Media Attention

Kojonup District High School student Shelby Water with the artwork ‘Our Place’, a collaborative effort by the students, and local artist Lisa Martello-Hart. Credit: Sean Van Der Wielen/Great Southern Herald.

Last week, Lisa Martello Hart sent me a copy of an article by Sean Van Der Wielen which appeared in the Great Southern Herald on Wednesday, 27 July. This is the same newspaper that reported on the beautiful landscape drawings of the Aboriginal children of Carrolup back in the second half of the 1940s. I was really impressed to see that students of Kojonup District High School have attracted such positive attention from local media. Here are the words of that article:

NAIDOC exhibition at The Kodja Place showcases Indigenous culture through the eyes of Kojonup school students

From an activity with classmates to an exhibition at The Kodja Place, Kojonup school students have had their artwork showcased to the wider community.

Their work in part of a five-week Cultural and Creative Expressions exhibition at the Kojonup cultural centre coinciding with 2022 NAIDOC Week.

Local artist and novelist Lisa Martello-Hart spent six months guiding local students, with personal expression and cultural connection the key themes of the exhibition. [Lisa is in fact a children’s book author.]

The Kodja Place manager Jill Watkin said it was important to recognise the up-and-coming local talent. 

“Our young people are the future of our Shire, so it is of vital importance we provide them with the opportunities and encourage them to develop their skills and talent and offer them a platform to encourage this,” she said.

More than 600 people have visited the exhibition since it started on June 27.

“It continues to attract visitors which is fantastic as this is encouraging for our planning of future exhibitions,” Ms Watkin said.

The exhibits include recreations of Aunty Ettie’s birthing tree, a sacred place for the Keneang people located on the western edge of Kojonup District High School. 

The tree is named after the late Granny Ettie Eades, whose family had a campsite at the location.

Some of the works have been created by using leaves, bark and other tree materials collected from around the site of the tree.

As a result of the students’ pieces, relative Leanne Eades created an artwork of the tree in reciprocation. 

Other art subjects included Carnaby’s black cockatoos and shearing.

Ms Watkin said all the exhibits had some connection to the Eades camping site, which is situated opposite the original Kojonup Aboriginal Reserve.’ 

My colleague John Stanton recently visited Kojonup and he had nothing but praise for the exhibition. When Lisa informed me that the exhibition closed on 31 July, it didn’t take me long to decide that I needed get myself down to Kojonup. I booked a coach for Friday, 29 July, and stayed overnight with Lisa and her family before returning to Perth on Saturday. 

I was really impressed with the exhibition and the artworks that were displayed. In fact, I’d like to say directly to the Kojonup students: ‘I am in awe of what you have achieved! The quality and variety of your artworks is really something very, very special. I look forward to seeing what you will achieve in the future. I know that John Stanton is as excited as I am about what you have achieved and where you can take it!’

I had a long chat with Lisa and Anna Saxon, one of the school’s teachers. They told me how proud the young people were about their work and how it was very positively received by Lisa, their teachers, parents, and the general public. In fact, Lisa stressed to me that the children were surprised by what they were able to achieve. Such acclaim does wonders for one’s self-esteem and confidence.

Lisa explained to me how she has been inspired by teacher Noel White’s work with the Aboriginal children of Carrolup. As far as John and I can see, what is happening in the classroom in Kojonup District High School is similar to what happened at Carrolup. Lisa is also using the ethos of the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) approach and identifying true assets in the community of Kojonup—school students at the local high school. 

John and I thrilled with what has been happening in the community and we look forward with great expectation to see how all this progresses. We’d like to offer our heartiest congratulations to all concerned.

One of a number of bush art pieces that explore place and belonging with reference to ‘Country’ – Kaneang Noongar Country. Photograph: Lisa Martello-Hart.


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