Inspirational works of art to raise awareness – Bundaberg Now

Artist Kyra Mancktelow during her artist-in-residence in the Bundaberg region.

Award-winning artist Kyra Mancktelow has produced thought-provoking artwork for regional galleries in Bundaberg after visiting and hearing the stories of traditional owners in the area.

The artwork was unveiled to the community on August 25 to mark Australia’s National South Sea Islander Appreciation Day.

As a Quandamooka woman with ties to Mardigan of Connamulla and Vanuatu, the South Sea Islanders, their heritage and family are central to Kyra’s practice.

A recent graduate of the Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art Program at Queensland College of Art, Kyra won the Telstra Emerging Artist Award 2021 at the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards and received Special Mention at the Churchie National Emerging Art Prize 2021.

Invited to the area as part of the Bundaberg Regional Galleries Artist-in-Residence program, Kyra said she was welcomed into the community.

With Dylan Sarra as her guide, Kyra met traditional owners from across the region who shared their stories and the lasting impacts of European settlement.

“I partnered with Dylan Sarra and he 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 picks up the ochre, he showed me your Salt Water Country and your mountains.

“He took me to the plantation of the South Sea Islanders.

“It’s such a beautiful country and such a great recognition of the traditional owners and the traditional landscape.”

Kyra has also heard stories of the hardships and atrocities faced by the ancestors of local traditional owners.

“These are massive stories,” she said.

“The South Sea Islander story of slavery in the cane fields as well as native history and massacres.”

Thought-provoking artwork
Artist Kyra Mancktelow visited important sites during her artist residency in the Bundaberg region.

What struck Kyra most about the stories shared was what she felt was modern society’s lack of awareness of this part of Australia’s history.

She was inspired to create a unique work of art that introduced new mediums into her traditional practice.

“The material I used to create this work is called Tarleton, an etching cloth that we use to remove color from an etching plate,” reads his artist statement.

“I chose this material because it represents this attempt to erase history.”

Screenprinted on the material in bold letters, the artwork reads “great coverage”.

“[That history] shaped Bundaberg in a way.

“I feel like this story is important and all Australians need to hear about this story.”

Thought-provoking artwork
Artist Kyra Mancktelow has produced a unique work of art which is now part of the collection of the Bundaberg Regional Council

Questions inspire thought-provoking artwork

Kyra hopes that by bringing to light a past that has become hidden, she will inspire the whole community to learn more about the indigenous and island heritage of the South Seas.

“All of my practice, especially with this, I want people to look at and question what’s been covered up and question themselves,” Kyra said.

“If I push a story on someone, they look at it and walk away.

“When people do their own research, it stays with them, it stays 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 was being unveiled on Australian South Sea Islander Appreciation Day, as recognition was at the heart of her passion for art.

“We live in 2022 and people are still wondering: who are the South Sea Islanders? Where do you come from? What is your connection to Australia?

“I really want the story of the South Sea Islanders in Bundaberg to be told in order to be launched on this day and to get this recognition is amazing and I am happy that they can be aligned with each other others.”

The thought-provoking artwork will be on display at the Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery, 1 Barolin St, Bundaberg Central, from today, August 25 to October 16, 2022.

Produced as part of an artist-in-residence program at the Bundaberg Regional Gallery, the original work will now form part of the collection of the Bundaberg Regional Council.