Artworks are a home away from home
New artworks donated from the Western Cape York region are adorning the walls of NRL Cowboys House to inspire its Indigenous boarding students and their connection to culture.
Artists from the Wei’Num Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts and Crafts Corporation have donated 20 paintings after Margaret Mara, an Old Mapoon artist and mother of two House students, saw space for the works during a visit.
They are a welcome addition to NRL Cowboys House which provides supported accommodation for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from some of North Queensland’s most remote and educationally disadvantaged communities.
NRL Cowboys House is purpose built and designed as a culturally respectful environment where the artworks assist the house in immersing students in their cultural backgrounds.
Margaret said the artists who donated the pieces are influenced not only by their culture but the physical, spiritual and emotional connection to the environment and provide students with a sense of belonging.
“The prints show a great diversity of traditional places, native food, environment and emotions,” she said.
“Having artwork from community, displayed at Cowboy House, is like having a little bit of home with you while you’re away to study.
“It will give the students a sense of pride in their culture and people.”
The prints range in size and provide Wei’Num artists a chance to share stories and experiences from their part of Queensland with students, staff and visitors.
They are an important feature of the boarding room halls and complement existing indigenous installations at the House, such as the yarning circle and Kup Murri pit.
Nine House students are from the Mapoon Region where the artworks originated.
Margaret’s own works have been featured in several magazines and local joint and solo shows, while some of her paintings feature in private collections both nationally and internationally.
Her artistic career, which spans many years, reflects many of the events that define and shape her life.
“Our culture is a very important part of who we are as Indigenous Australians and art is a form of preserving, celebrating, respecting, and sharing that culture,” she said.
Margaret has two daughters currently residing at Cowboys House, year 11 student Larnie and year 9 student Rahu, who say they are proud to see the artworks from home.
The girls have strong memories of watching their mother painting as they were growing up and said much of the family were often immersed in painting.
“We used to always see her painting, we would sit around and watch her,” Larnie said.
“Sometimes if she’d go for walks on the beach or if she was going out, she would just paint what she sees.”
It’s hoped the paintings will leave an important legacy on the walls of the buildings for future generations of students from the Western Cape York Region.