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"Old Girls Yarning into the Night" 2024

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Rosella Namok

Born 1979, KuukuYa’u, Wuthathi, Umpila, Kaanju and Uuthalganu Country/Lockhart River, QLD. Kanthanampu and Aangkum people. Lives and works Gimuy/ Cairns and Lockhart River, QLD. 

 

"Old Girls Yarning into the Night" 2024

Courtesy of the artist and Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane. 

Rosella Namok, of the Kanthanampu and Aangkum language groups, Eastern Cape York region, is a leading artist of the Lockhart River Art Gang. Formed in 1995, ‘The Art Gang’ comprises of intergenerational artists, who work across a variety of mediums at the Lockhart River Arts Centre. The Art Gang is recognised nationally and internationally as a culturally vital group. 

Namok’s window commission, Old Girls Yarning into the Night is a dynamic and optical work which honours the storytelling circles of women, beginning their yarning at sunset and ending when the sun rises. Colour is used as a marker of time passing – the warm oranges, pinks, and yellows indicating both the ending and beginning of a day. Black paint, representing the night-time sky, has been laid over the top of these colours and then carefully scraped away by the artist’s fingers over and over, creating a rhythmic flow that slides across the canvas’ surface. For Namok, the shimmering effect that these gliding lines have evokes the essence of Yakamu, the reflective dancing of moonlight on water in the evening. 

 

Namok's colourful practice meditates on her lived experience, culture, and knowledge of Country. Preferencing her hands over store-bought tools, Namok uses her fingers and hands to create her paintings – this technique was inherited from her father, used in ceremonial body painting. The artist’s focus on cultural continuation is also reflected materially in her practice, as Namok typically uses weather-proof house paints. This decision ensures that the knowledges and stories that she commemorates in her work withstand the material restrictions of time and can be exhibited in a wider variety of climates.

 

The act of scraping away with the hands as a method of storytelling pays tribute to the traditional sand stories of ‘The Old Girls’, Elder women in Namok’s community. This practice of storytelling was learnt by Namok through her late grandmother, who drew her stories in the sand beneath her as she spoke – a process through which image and language become intrinsic to each other. Through this work, Namok celebrates the voices and stories of the Elders and women in her community, and the matrilineal connections that accompany them. Facing towards the facade of the University’s sandstone building, a symbol of knowledge production, Namok’s Old Girls Yarning into the Night grounds storytelling as a vital lifeforce and repository.  

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