Award-winning artist Kyra Mancktelow has produced a thought-provoking artwork for Bundaberg Regional Galleries after visiting with, and hearing the stories of, the region’s Traditional Owners.
The artwork has been unveiled to the community on 25 August to mark Australian South Sea Islander National Recognition Day.
As a Quandamooka woman with links to Mardigan of Connamulla and Vanuatu, South Sea Islander people, heritage and family are central to Kyra’s practice.
A recent graduate from Queensland College of Art’s Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art program, Kyra won the 2021 Telstra Emerging Artist Award at The National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards and received a Special Commendation at the 2021 Churchie National Emerging Art Prize.
Invited to the region as part of Bundaberg Regional Galleries Artist in Residence program, Kyra said she was welcomed into the community.
With Dylan Sarra as her guide, Kyra met with Traditional Owners throughout the region who shared their history and the lasting impacts of European settlement.
“I partnered up with Dylan Sarra and he actually showed me around for the three/four days,” Kyra said.
“He showed me his Country and he showed me traditional areas.
“He showed me where he collects ochre, he showed me your saltwater Country and your mountains.
“He took me to the South Sea Islander plantation.
“It’s such a beautiful country and so much beautiful acknowledgment of Traditional Owners and traditional landscape.”
Kyra also heard stories of hardships and atrocities faced by the ancestors of local Traditional Owners.
“They’re massive histories,” she said.
“The South Sea Islander history of the slavery in the cane fields as well as the Indigenous history and the massacres.”
What struck Kyra the most about the stories shared was what she felt was a lack of awareness within modern society to this part of Australia’s history.
She was inspired to create a unique artwork which introduced new mediums into her traditional practice.
“The material I used to create this work is called Tarleton, a printmaking fabric that we use to take away colour from an etching plate,” her artist statement reads.
“I chose this material because it represents that attempt of erasing history.”
Screen printed over the material in bold letters, the artwork reads “one big cover up”.
“[That history] shaped Bundaberg in a sense.
“I feel like that history is important and all Australians needs to hear about that history.”
Questions inspire thought-provoking artwork
Kyra hopes that, by shining a light on a past that has become hidden, she will inspire the entire community to learn more about Indigenous and South Sea Islander heritage.
“My whole practice, especially with this, I want people to look and kind of question what’s been covered up and question themselves,” Kyra said.
“If I push a story onto someone, they view it and walk away.
“When people do their own research it sticks with them, it lingers with them, it stays with them and that’s what I really want.”
Kyra said she was proud, and a little nervous, that her artwork would be unveiled on Australian South Sea Islander Recognition Day because recognition was at the heart of her passion for art.
“We live in 2022 and people still question: who are South Sea Islanders? Where do you come from? What’s your link to Australia?
“I really want that South Sea Islander history in Bundaberg to be told so to be launched on that day and get that recognition is amazing and I’m happy they can be aligned with each other.”
The thought-provoking artwork will be on display at Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery, 1 Barolin St, Bundaberg Central, from today, 25 August through to 16 October 2022.
Produced during a Bundaberg Regional Gallery Artist in Residence Program, the original artwork will now become part of Bundaberg Regional Council’s collection.