Stories of Resilience
From August to November 2014 Nexus worked with Barngarla people in Port Augusta, in particular the Dare family, in an innovative arts healing project titled Barngarla Stories of Resilience. The One Love, One Family exhibition premiered at the Port Augusta Cultural Centre in 2014 and was remounted in the Nexus Gallery in Adelaide CBD for the Tarnanthi Festival in October – November 2015.
Nexus Arts and the Dulwich Centre Foundation developed the initial project concept combining narrative therapy and art making. Professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann from the University of Adelaide facilitated the introduction between Nexus Arts and the Barngarla people of Port Augusta and through consultation with the community the project was developed. This was a pilot project and the Barngarla people guided every step, helping to mould the delivery of the project as well as establishing a project framework for future communities.
Throughout the two stages of the project the elder siblings found comfort in each other’s previously untold stories of growing up removed from their family members and culture, and how they longed to reconnect with their lost siblings and parents. The inter-generational nature of the project provided an opportunity for younger generations to hear the stories of their elders and both understand their struggle and the hardships they have overcome as well as recognising the resilience and strength they have shown.
The outcomes of individual and community healing well and truly exceeded our expectations. It was an honour to witness a family beginning to heal and reconnect and 12 months on the family is still connected and recognise the role of the project in providing the opportunity and space for that reconnection.
It is with great generosity that the Barngarla people decided to share their stories so that other communities can acknowledge the long lasting affects of being separated from culture and family and appreciate the strength of those who have risen above such hardship for the sake of their families and communities.
Artist Heather Shearer led the artmaking workshops, and her experience and passion were invaluable to the delivery and success of the overall project. Barngarla: Stories of Resilience was a pilot project, and the Barngarla people guided every step, helping to direct its delivery as well as establish a framework for future communities. As Shearer explained:
The opportunity to present my Art in Healing program to the Barngarla people through the Nexus program was, to say the least, an honour.
Through my own personal journey as a stolen generations person who fought a long battle to reconnect with my family and culture, I found a way to do this, and with the guidance, support and direction of my family and culture, art became my way. I may not be able to speak my language, but my art has become my voice. It grounds my identity as an Aranda woman, and it provides me with a platform to identify my inner issues, express my knowledge and educate others in a tangible format that represents my truth, understanding and respect for my culture and people. It gives me strength, heals my pain, but never denies the truth of my past, my ideas for the present or my vision for the future.
I share my story and my art with others, to inspire them, to engage with them, and to encourage them to look to their cultural practices for a way to assist them in finding their footing in their culture, and show the world who they are and regenerate pride in themselves, for them, their family and their future generations to come. This will be their legacy to leave – a renewal of culture, identity and pride.
Members of the Barngarla community expressed their responses to the project:
“I’ve learnt more stories about my family being taken away and what they went through. I thought I was the only one suffering, but they suffered as well. It was good to be with them and draw closer, I believe, to the family”
“We just get stubborn with one another, you know, when you argue and that. Doing this art together, it’s really great, we’re all getting together and doing what we’re supposed to be doing – sharing and caring.”
With the workshops I saw more happiness with my family, especially looking at my aunties and they put their family down, their brothers and sisters – the communication, the laughter, the happiness that I can see coming out of them, and they were enjoying it and coming all the time. It was great healing for them.