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14-28 November 2015

The Walls Art Space

Artist:   Libby Harward

Title of work:  YABRUMA (Always)

 These are photo’s of a video piece for group exhibition, HEAD LAND, curated by Rebecca Ross and Dani Zuevela. Their approach was to invite the group to respond to the concept of the headland in its many forms, with specific reference to the distinctive headland formation that gives Burleigh Heads its name.

Following the traditions of my Ancestors, the Ngugi people of the Quandamooka (Moreton Bay), my role in this project had to be negotiated respectfully, both with family Elders, and with Elder custodians of Jellurgul (“Big Burleigh”), Jebbribillum (“Little Burleigh”) and the broader cultural landscape.  In times past, the presence of the Quandamooka tribes on the country between Tallebudgera Creek and the Tweed River – the Traditional lands of the Nganduwal people - would have been by invitation to participate in cultural events at their large campsite, subsequently intersected by Qld./NSW border.


The materials I have used to create this work come from saltwater country – the sea and the shoreline, where they appear and reappear where the tides take them – always in the tides. Aboriginal language is very descriptive.  We have stories that are ancestral, spiritual and geo-centric – that is, they belong to the country that gives birth to and sustains the people through law and custom. We have words for ebb tide, flood tide, rising tide and falling tide, but no generic word “tide”.  The word YABRUMA (always) comes from Yugambeh. Hague Best recalls his mother’s favourite quote: Yana yehyinbaia  (Go with the rising tide). Kunajura is the falling tide. In the neighbouring Jandai dialect Guriba is the ebb tide, and Yunggulba the flood tide.  


There is something vitally important for me in the Listening and being with and honouring this heritage through the simplicity of my work; that it is no

t over explained in a language not of its essence. - A language not from country.  


That the process and act of creating my art is woman’s business and the BANGAN (mud) or seaweed or mangroves or sea grass are valid enough without being contextualised. In fact they are more valid to me than the context or meaning made of them.


I create the art only to bring this out and the story I see in it.  Holding my own integrity to validate the MUD, which in its existence as REAL – maybe a "real” acknowledgement of Traditional Laws and REAL observance of Traditional Customs - feels like a form of resistance. Resistance in response to the legal determination in the Yorta Yorta Native Title claim by Justice Olney (1998) that 


,,,the tide of (his)story has washed away any real acknowledgement oftraditional laws and any real observance of traditional customs


My work asks for a deep sense of listening.  If I Listen to the mud and watch the tide wash in and out and the landscape change, I listen to the mangroves as they take root and hold ground … if listen to their seeds drift with the tide to take hold elsewhere on the shorelines …  I will be more and know more about everything - about past present and future. About me and my children and my relationship to everything. 


It is somehow appropriate that I was drawn to the Mangroves as the context for my new work, and to discover, through this process, that my ancestors - WIDJUMBAREGUN, daughter of Junobin and Gonsales, THE MANILA MAN are named, each in their own culture, for plants that grow within the area of mangroves where they were born.


I am exploring my Aboriginality and finding understanding for who I am in context to country - learning how my rich ancestry holds knowledge that is now being talked about in the sciences of neurobiology - knowledge that is in direct opposition to our white culture which sees progress in a linear way. That seems to put pressure on time and values the move over the wait.


Are the song lines and tide lines and mud lines the neural pathways i need to rebuild to return home - to be integrated to heal my trauma?


Here in the mangrove mud I will wait for another sign to come in with the tide.

I am here looking forwards and backwards now.