Jinibara Country Animals, by Uncle Noel Blair
Artist: Uncle Noel Blair
Born on Christmas Day in Wondai in South East Queensland, as a child Noel was moved with his family to the Cherbourg Aboriginal Reserve which was set up and controlled by the Australian Government. When Noel was 14 he was sent away to Quoin Island near Gladstone to work as an indentured labourer. He ended up breaking free and escaping, getting by with contract work – peanut picking, ring barking, stick picking, camping, fishing, hunting – and “keeping out of sight of those government people!”
Uncle Noel has been an artist since he was a child: “I started drawing when I was quite young; drawing was good when I couldn’t afford to buy paint! When I grew older I started working with the older people. They were carving walking sticks, spears, boomerangs, woomeras. I’ve always tried to keep my culture. Doing art is part of that. Growing up at Cherbourg the old people used to try and keep culture strong; my grandma used to take me out hunting, fishing, camping.”
“I like doing the burning (on wooden artifacts) – you don’t have to wash paint brushes, or wait for the paint to dry! You just burn it – and it’s done! I can do it for hours and hours without distraction, it helps me to concentrate, to think, to relax.
Uncle Noel is a Traditional Custodian of Jinibara Country, which was recognised in 2012 by the Federal Court in a native title determination. (The Jinibara group includes Dala, Nalbo, Garumgar, Dungidau clan groups). The claim was filed in 1998. “In 2012, we were granted exclusive access to 800 hectares of property (in eight parcels of land). We also got non-exclusive rights to 70,000 hectares of national park (Glasshouse mountains, Mapleton National Park). That was a really good feeling; it took a really long time, but we got there”.
Uncle Noel is involved in the Woodford Folk Festival, as Traditional Custodian of the Woodfordia site, and as a Jinibara Delegate to the festival Committee.
Art story - Jinibara Country Animals
“This animal design is inspiration from years of drawing. I usually burn them onto wood – but these ones I drew onto paper, and we scanned them onto the computer to make this print. I usually think of all the animals I can, and burn them onto clapsticks, and give them to my relatives – especially to my kids, to give them inspiration. They really love the animals. Most of the animals are from Jinibara Country – though we don’t have any sea in our area, but we knew of the sea creatures from stories, and paintings.”
Jinibara Gallery, Woodfordia’s Traditional Custodians Gallery, is a partnership between Woodfordia Inc (the producers of the Woodford Folk Festival) and the Traditional Custodians of the Woodford area, the Jinibara people. The partnership supports the growth of the Jinibara Gallery to enable Jinibara people to share their art and culture with the world. You can shop hand made artefacts and artworks in person at the Woodford Folk Festival, or online at https://www.jinibaragallery.com/
Magpie Goose X Jinibara Collaboration
Earlier this year, Magpie Goose was invited to take part in Woodford's 25th festival celebrations. Through discussions with the team at Jinibara Gallery, we explored the possibility of collaborating with Jinibara custodians and artists Uncle Noel Blair and Jason Murphy, to co-create a very special Woodford 'capsule collection'. The artists were excited to have a new platform to share their stories and so began a six month process - sharing designs (clapsticks, drawings, paintings), working with repeats for textiles, digitising designs, selecting colourways and base cloth, commissioning the printing and finally the manufacture of the clothing in Sydney!
We are thrilled to showcase four designs by Uncle Noel Blair and Jason Murphy in this collection. The designs tell stories of traditional artefacts and culture; plants and animals; contemporary identity struggles; and cheeky colloquialisms.