Pomona-based Aboriginal painter, Jandamarra Cadd, opened a travelling exhibition in Nambour on Saturday 10 November.
By Diet Simon
Jandamarra told the 50 to a hundred of us who were at the opening, the racism story that probably shaped his life – and gave the world a great painter.
He was almost choking with emotion, and quite teary, when he recounted how he was taunted and bullied as a primary pupil of about eight in his Victoria school.
He had quite a few of us – including me – sniffy and teary, too.
Of all the usual disgustingly nasty words racists use for Aborigines the one that hurt him most was “dirty”.
Five bully boys in his class, who had it in for him, kept telling him, you’re dirty, dirty, dirty.
So at home he ran a bath, put bleach and other chemicals into it, and began scrubbing himself, only to realise, of course, that the colour would stay.
I have to say here that he’s a beautiful flat-white-coffee colour that many would envy him for.
Anyway, his Mum told him, be proud of your Aboriginality.
Came the day when the class was set the task of telling their heritage.
That terrifying knot in Jandamarra’s gut was back.
“I can’t do this, Mum,” he said. “Yes you can,” she told him, “you stand up there and say I’m an Aborigine and I’m proud of it.”
The kids get up.
My parents are Scottish, English, Irish, Welsh and so on.
Jandamarra’s turn. The knot almost paralysing him.
“I’m Aborigine and I’m proud of it,” he says almost inaudibly.
The teacher asks him to speak up.
“I’m Aborigine and I’m proud of it.”
"At that moment," Jandamarra told us on Saturday, "my life changed. I could feel my pride in my heritage." The bullies who went for him afterwards couldn’t hurt him.
And the gallery exploded in cheers, applause and approving whistles.
His Mum was there, up from Melbourne, and also got a huge cheer when Jandamarra praised and thanked her especially.
So why do I repeat this story?
Because it’s one of those life-defining moments that many of us have. I assume that was his.
Another was when as a troubled 15-year-old he was handed a paint brush. And started to paint. Just like that. No tuition.
Jandamarra had found his way to communicate with the world and engage with his culture.
I know nothing about art, and maybe that’s just as well, because the paintings I saw that night got straight through to me.
Like they were talking to me.
You immediately wanted to read the biographies Jandamarra has posted beside each.
Sixteen portraits of strong Aboriginal role models. Archie Roach and his late wife Ruby, Lyndon Davis of the Gubbi Gubbi dancers, Samantha Martin who lived around Noosa for a few years, Patrick Dodson, Jessica Mauboy; many will be familiar public figures, some who are not generally, but important to the Aboriginal community Australia-wide. Like Kutcha Edwards, Doug Nichols, Gladys Nichols, Dan Sultan, Bob Randall, D-kazman, Christine Anu, Jahmarley Dawson, William Cooper, Olive Jackson/Harrison, Gilbert Laurie, Alf Bamblett and Muriel Bamblett.
They’re glorious pictures in vibrant colours, hybrids between Western portraiture and Aboriginal dot art. All of them big – about one and a half metres is probably the smallest dimension in any direction.
Jandamarra is hoping to get as many individuals, school groups and budding local artists along to see the exhibition while it’s here.
If you want an idea of what you’ll get to see, go to his website, www.jandamarrasart.com.
Jandamarra Cadd travelling exhibition
10 November to 30 November 2012
Ground Zero Gallery, 80 Howard Street, old ambulance station
Ground Zero Gallery, Nambour
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