‘Layers of Blak’: Fed Square’s First Nations jewellery exhibition bringing beauty to an ugly and brutal history

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‘Layers of Blak’: Fed Square’s First Nations jewellery exhibition bringing beauty to an ugly and brutal history

Installation view, Blak Jewellery – Finding Past · Linking Present, Koorie Heritage Trust, 4 September 2021 – 27 February 2022. Photo credit: Christian Capurro.

11 Victorian First Nations Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and designers have wrestled with colonial history to present their stories, layered with meaning – of healing, resilience, collaboration and empowerment - to a new exhibition of contemporary jewellery.

Layers of Blak opens 1 October 2022 until 19 February 2023 at the Koorie Heritage Trust, Yarra Building, Fed Square.

Layers of Blak is the exhibition outcome from the Blak Design program.  Now in its second year, its aim is to foster First Nations cultural innovation within the Victorian design sector and provide a platform for nurturing sustainable, First Nations design practices.

Participating First Nations artists include: Thelma Austin (Gunditjmara), Mandi Barton (Yorta Yorta/Barapa Barapa/Wemba Wemba), Lorraine Brigdale (Yorta Yorta), Nikki Brown(Bidjara), Deanne Gilson (Wadawurrung), Tammy Gilson (Wadawurrung), Elijah Money (Wiradjuri), Yasmin Silveira (Palawa), Sammy Trist (Taungurung), Dominic White(Palawa) and Tracy Wise (Barkindji/Ngiyampaa).

Stay up to date with what’s happening within the region’s art scene here

For award-winning Yorta Yorta artist Lorraine Brigdale, “this has been a really sustaining and unique experience. To work with acclaimed jewellers who mentored us, and strengthening connections with other Blak designers, together with the way I was respected as an artist and given an opportunity to create has been liberating. The processes I learned have added greatly to my handwork skills and will be a big part in creating a new direction in any art that I can build on in the future.  My work for the exhibition is centred around remembering our ancestors and the strength and determination it took for them to get us to this point where we can hold our heads high at last, and we will never forget them.”

Wiradjuri artist Elijah Money adds, “being chosen to be part of Blak Design has enabled me to gain confidence in not only my ideas, but their overall refinement. To be taught by such warm and generous teachers in a material that I wouldn’t have considered practicing in, is a huge honour. It’s been a fantastic journey that has pushed my boundaries of artistic comfortabilities and knowledge systems.

“It’s been an absolute privilege to be able to spend time with such phenomenal artists who each have their very own distinct practice. Watching everyone blossom has been and continues to be such a delight. I feel deeply fortunate to have been part of Blak Design, this huge opportunity has furthered my skills and understandings in a way that I didn’t think was possible.”

Each of the participants have undertaken intensive hands-on workshops; learning and refining their jewellery-making skills at RMIT jewellery studios.  They have been mentored by acclaimed jewellers Blanche Tilden and Laura Deakin with technical assistance by Lindy McSwan.  They have also participated in professional development workshops with creative industry leaders in business, design and marketing.

For more information, head to the Koorie Heritage Trust website here.