Patrick Ikaringanyi Ferguson spends a lot of time choosing just the right tree root to make his fighting boomerangs.
“A lot of people think that style of boomerang comes from a tree branch, but it’s from the tree root,” he says. “It’s a fighting boomerang so it has to be very strong.
“With the tree root and the trunk, that’s where the strength is … a tree without roots won’t stand.”
One of Mr Ferguson’s latest works, a Mulga Number 7 Fighting Boomerang, will be on display with his other carvings at the ‘Our Mob’ exhibition in Adelaide from Friday.
The exhibition runs as a satellite event to the giant Tarnanthi: Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art.
More than 120 artworks by Indigenous artists will go on display — most for sale — until December 2 in Adelaide Festival Centre’s Artspace Gallery and Dunstan Playhouse and Space Theatre foyers.
Among Mr Ferguson’s works there will also be a special shield he made to commemorate his friend, prominent South Australian Indigenous leader Stephen Goldsmith, who died suddenly in July at age 60. The shield will be given to Mr Goldsmith’s son after the exhibition.
Mr Ferguson remembers a conversation he had with Mr Goldsmith before his death as they were looking at some of his carvings.
“I said I want to make you a Kaurna shield one day,” Mr Ferguson says. “He goes ‘You don’t have to do that’. I said ‘I know I don’t’.
“He goes ‘What’s it going to be, just like this?’. ‘I said ‘Yes it’s going to be just like that’. He said ‘If it’s going to be just like this, then it’s going to be the best I’ve ever seen’.
“I never ever thought it would be a memorial shield.”
Mr Ferguson, 41 of Adelaide, says he likes getting back to the land and fossicking for the right wood to make his pieces.
He first learnt to make boomerangs and other carvings from his grandmother, growing up in Tibooburra in New South Wales. It was a skill he further fine-tuned in his transition through initiation to become a Wati man.
“Wood carving is a beginning,” he says. “It’s been around for thousands of years. So has rock art and things like that. But without wood we wouldn’t have had fire, shelter, wouldn’t have been able to hunt, we wouldn’t have been able to do most things.
“Wood was also a source of money through trading.
“I’m just really connected to nature through wood.”
Twelve-year-old artist Bailey Gibb, from Roxby Downs, also drew strongly on local culture for his acrylic-on-canvas painting.
“The painting is honouring Baiame, the creator of my country, my people and my river,” he says.
“When my mum showed me the image of Baiame in the sky, I got inspired to do that. At first I was going to do him in a cave but then I thought he means a lot to me and I thought I would put the Aboriginal flag in the background.”
Bailey’s mother Sandy also has a painting in the exhibition.
She says her work “represents confidence and self-esteem” and how these can make you can shine.
The pair will drive for six hours from their home to make the exhibition opening on Friday.
Our Mob features three components: an exhibition of works by South Australian Aboriginal artists; Our Young Mob, an exhibition of works by artists under 18; and the Don Dunstan Foundation Prize Showcase.