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Mural reflect Gunbalanya community

15 April 2019

Gunbalanya literally came to life with a visit from Corrugated Iron Youth Arts recently.
Artist Janie Andrews and filmmaker Nat Kelly came to Gunbalanya for a two week program, working alongside local young people to reinvigorate the Youth Centre and use film and paint to tell some Gunbalanya stories as told by local youth. 
Corrugated Iron Youth Arts usually run circus and performance workshops in remote communities, but this time they had to live up to their name as the brief was to facilitate painting workshops on the inside corrugated iron walls of Gunbalanya Youth Centre, as well as the curtains. 
Over 50 young people were involved in the project, which saw the bumpy corrugated iron interior walls of the Youth Centre shed bought to life with the creation of two technicoloured murals and dazzling new curtains. 
This story will also be shared as a short film in the upcoming Travelling Film Festival. 
The seasons of Gunbalanya and the bush foods, plants and animals that are a part of the season will form the point of inspiration within the film.
The workshop took place in week 10 of the school term and the first week of school holidays. 
The first part of the program saw both daytime painting workshops held at Gunbalanya school and afterschool sessions at the Youth Centre, along with food and additional games. 
During school holidays, young people had the opportunity to explore the plants and bush foods around town, bringing back samples to draw. They made a short film with Nat documenting and explaining different fruits, nuts and animals from the seasonal calendar they had painted. This included the finding of blackcurrants, water peanuts and a water goanna.
Artist Janie supported young people to transform their ideas into painting and stencils for the walls and curtains.

 Janie is presently involved in several murals in the Territory, including murals at Maningrida Community Education College and several locations in Darwin. Janie knew many families in Gunbalanya, having worked with youth and adults four years ago to create the mosaic artworks at the Child and Family Centre and at Injalak Arts Centre. 
“It was great to reconnect with people and work with the children of the artists I worked with four years ago,” Janie said.
Janie worked with small groups of youth to create two special large paintings. Over the two weeks, the murals grew into two stories: one depicting the beautiful billabong and hills in Gunbalanya, the other, a vibrantly colourful Kunwinjku seasonal calendar with long necked turtles, magpie geese, emu eggs and other bush foods. 
There was also curtain printing with cut-out stencils which the kids filled in with paint and then added details. There are now fish, turtles, kangaroos, water lillies and so much more brightening up the Youth Centre space. All of the children were really proud of their contribution and enjoyed showing everyone what they had created. 
The entire process was documented by upcoming filmmaker Nat Kelly (who already has a number of award winning films to his name), which will be screened back to the community at the upcoming Travelling Film Festival. 
Nat also supported young people to learn camera tricks and young participants were actively involved in capturing the content that will soon be screened to the community. 
“Seeing people use the camera with confidence after only a few short instructions was definitely a highlight of my time with them in Gunbalanya,” Nat said.
“When somebody else came up with interest, the person using the camera would often turn into the teacher, helping them understand how to press the shutter and change the exposure. Even when I was using the camera there’d be one or two asking lots of questions, which I thought was great, as it showed a real keenness to understand the process.”