un Projects is based on the unceded sovereign land and waters of the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation; we pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.
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Indigenous Futurisms: Kaiela Arts young creatives are at the forefront of the next generation of staunch storytelling


Kaiela Arts Shepparton

Indigenous Futurisms

YIRRAMBOI, 4-14 May 2023

The rustling soundscape of trees and birds, accompanied by the rich vibration of the yidaki and the flute, transported viewers into the worlds of the Kaiela Arts young creatives in a new community-led project, Indigenous Futurisms. Led by Dixon Patten, Tammy-Lee Atkinson, and Cienan Muir with the soundscape by River Loizou, Indigenous Futurisms began as a workshop project with young Aboriginal kids, connected to Kaiela Arts, who attended creative sessions with Patten and Muir to develop and imagine what is possible in the future of our communities.

For INDIGINERD creator and Creative Director of this project, Yorta Yorta and Ngarrindjeri man Cienan Muir jumped at the opportunity to work with the young mob in developing a new body of work and writing surrounding the theme of Indigenous Futurism. Muir had been in conversation with Shepparton Art Museum for some time now, and with the delivery of YIRRAMBOI and the connection between Kaiela Arts and the festival worked out to be timely. Co-presented by YIRRAMBOI and situated at SIGNAL alongside the birrarung (Yarra River), the correlation between place and the waterways, where Kaiela Arts is located on the Kaiela Dungala (Goulburn Murray River), emphasises a strong reflection of how Aboriginal practices are always interlinked and connected to story and waterways. Unique to this project, as it is within blackfulla communities, is how an idea or concept begins and ends within the community. Beginning in workshops with the young artists, Muir states,

We ran a mind mapping exercise, which uncovered some deep and sensitive topics that our Aboriginal children always have in their heads. Particularly, to hear each child speak on these topics with such casualness and familiarity, this was quite confronting, to have our future generations of my home community speak about topics I've heard around tables of senior community members.

The work of the Kaiela Arts young creatives delves into black joy, imagination and is, as Muir says, ‘stitched [together] with wonder, fantasy and the unknown.’

Kaiela Arts young creatives working together on their project ideas at the Kaiela Arts workspace. Image courtesy of Kaiela Arts.

Kaiela Arts is one of two art centres in Victoria. Based on Yorta Yorta Country up in Shepparton, Victoria, Kaiela Arts is more than an arts centre; it is a place of family, community, culture and connection. The instant warmth and love are palpable as soon as you walk into the room; the aunties having tea and painting together, the vibrancy of the shopfront canvases depicting the life of Elders in the community and the abundance of materials ready for mob to pick up and create. The space at Kaiela Arts is where the young creatives gathered to develop their designs. Gunnai, Yorta Yorta, Gunditjmara, Dhudhuroa, with bloodlines from Wemba Wemba, Barapa Barapa, Djab Wurrung, Wiradjuri, Yuin, Wodi Wodi, Wolgal and Monaro, artist, designer and Director of Bayila Creative Dixon Patten worked alongside the young artists with Muir to grow the minds and possibilities of how to imagine the future of our communities and our storytelling. The space created by Muir and Patten allowed creativity to thrive, unbridled by expectation, with the love of making together as young people.

Kaiela Arts young creative, Brooke, states ‘We learnt how to draw and design futuristic stuff and I thought it was pretty cool,’ so much so she has been practising her designs at home since Indigenous Futurisms launched on the 6th of May. For Brooke, seeing leaders in the arts community be present and facilitating an environment for the appreciation of art-making, she says, ‘they were being role models for us young kids, coz they are Koorie people working deadly jobs.’ These young people are the future generations of arts practitioners and leaders in their community, with projects like this allowing for healing and thought for how they might see themselves expressing themselves in the future. As Muir described,

Indigenous Futurism is such a cornerstone of our community, our culture. As the world's oldest engineers, astronomers, mathematicians and scientists, it is important we understand this fully and take up our position as such, a culture rich in tradition but hungry for progression and innovation.

The moving words by the Kaiela Arts young creatives are just the beginning step in how we can continue to elevate the stories of our children — to remind them their voices matter. Muir reminds us, ‘We are not a static people, nor is our culture trapped in the past. Our culture is now, and our culture is thriving.’

Kaiela Arts young creatives working together on their project ideas at the Kaiela Arts workspace. Image courtesy of Kaiela Arts.

For a highly respected arts festival such as YIRRAMBOI to support local community at such a grassroots level is a testament to how they engage with mentorship with the utmost respect — as our people have always done. Indigenous Futurisms, like Kaiela Arts, is more than an art project; it is a continued relationship with the next generations of people who will one day also become mentors to the next wave of blackfulla creatives. As Muir stated above, the futures these kids imagined are confronting and to hear from such young minds, such as ‘No black deaths in custody’, ‘Our culture and community are thriving not just surviving,’ and ‘What if… Colonisation didn't happen? What if we had… Treaty?’ is heavy to hold. To see the future of young Aboriginal people written on the “walls” of a city-centric building, echoing protests of the past and present serves as a reminder that Futurism is not romantic and rosy-tinged for Aboriginal kids; it is seeing justice come to fruition. Heightened by the transcendent soundscape, with the glowing words from the Kaiela Arts young creatives, held and bordered with designs by Patten and mentored by Muir, Indigenous Futurisms uplifted Aboriginal children and their sovereign creative expressions into the future and the public walkways of Naarm, from Yorta Yorta Country.

Listen to the Indigenous Futurisms soundscape here.

Kaiela Arts young creatives working together on their project ideas at the Kaiela Arts workspace. Image courtesy of Kaiela Arts.

Creative Director: Cienan Muir

Artists: Dixon Patten, Tammy-Lee Atkinson, River Loizou, and Kaiela Arts young creatives

Indiginerd, Kaiela Arts, YIRRAMBOI and SIGNAL through City of Melbourne.

This project is co-presented by Indiginerd, Kaiela Arts, YIRRAMBOI and SIGNAL through City of Melbourne.

Maya Hodge is a Lardil and Yangkaal emerging writer and curator based on the lands of the Kulin Nation. Her practice is dedicated to disrupting colonial narratives and centring First Nations storytelling and autonomy. Maya's writing and poetry have been published by Kill Your Darlings, Craft Victoria, Art Collector, Hardie Grant, Cordite Poetry Review, and Overland. Last year, she completed a publishing internship with Open Book and was selected as a runner-up for the 2021 SBS Emerging Writers' Competition.