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Dreamtime connection of First Nations students recognised at art show

David Prestipino -

Dreamtime, environmental concerns, societal beauty standards, mental health and family connection were the inspiration behind award-winning works by art and design students across South Australia.

Proud Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara and Kaurna woman Shakaya Butler and Ngarrindjeri Mimini woman April Rigney were among eight art and design students representing metropolitan and country South Australia to receive top honours at the SACE 2024 Art Show.

The winning students, from the Coorong through Adelaide to the Clare Valley, will officially be presented with the awards at this Friday's closing event of the 2024 SACE Art Show. 

Awarded for her digital artworks 'Fire, Water, Earth, Air' (Waru, Kapi, Munda, Walpa), Ms Butler, 18, said she used a digital canvas to illustrate modern representations of four traditional Aboriginal 'imma women'.

"I crafted four illustrations centred around four female Aboriginal characters, each representing a facet of the elemental forces that shape our world," she said. 

"As they dance through country they are known as 'imma women' - women who perform ceremonies of country and song. 

"These characters are conduits for cultural understanding, each steeped in symbolism and informed by the stories of my people."

Ms Butler said she her works were influenced by trailblazing Aboriginal character artists in the digital realm.

"My creations stand as a testament to the evolving narrative of Indigenous art. The digital platform, a contemporary canvas, allows me to infuse tradition with modernity, creating a bridge between the past and the present," she said.

Ms Rigney, also 18, said she chose to connect with her culture through art, using Ngarrindjeri art-style to paint the Kondoli dreaming story.

"I love learning about my culture and the dreaming stories," she said.

"The Kondoli dreaming is a sacred Ngarrindjeri dreaming story based in Port Elliot and Victor Harbour of how fire was given to our people and how we must protect it.

"I was inspired to paint the 'Kondoli Dreaming' after an excursion with renowned Ngarrindjeri artist Cedric Varcoe, where we visited Basham’s Beach (Middleton).

"Varco shared the Kondoli dreaming story with us and how the waters and land were created by Kondoli and how he turned into a whale."

South Australia education, training and skills minister Blair Boyer said he was particularly impressed by the inspiration the young artists said influenced their work.

"Art is a wonderful way for students to express how they view the world around them, and I congratulate this year's winners on their wonderful achievement," he said.

SA human services minister Nat Cook said the works from the young students were incredible and illustrated how fantastic art was as a medium for storytelling.

"These young people have been able to showcase their culture, experiences of mental health and passion for the environment so beautifully through their artworks," she said.

SACE Board chief executive Michaela Bensley said it was important to celebrate the success of the students as well as the significance of their art.

"Let us not only applaud the skill and beauty of their works, but also recognise the profound significance they hold in bridging diverse perspectives and fostering deeper understanding within our community," she said.

The SACE Art Show is one of the biggest secondary school art and design exhibitions in SA, with works from 130 artists chosen from 1350 visual art and design students on show to the public until April 12 at the Light Square Gallery located at the Adelaide College of the Arts. 

Click here for more information on the SACE Art Show, bookings and online gallery.


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