Aboriginal paintings spruce up walls of WA Centre for Rural Health

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian
Yamaji Art director and artist Charmaine Green, manager Roni Jones and WA Centre for Rural Health director Sandra Thompson with one of the four commissioned artworks, titled Teaching — Passing on Skills & Knowledge.
Camera IconYamaji Art director and artist Charmaine Green, manager Roni Jones and WA Centre for Rural Health director Sandra Thompson with one of the four commissioned artworks, titled Teaching — Passing on Skills & Knowledge. Credit: The Geraldton Guardian

A room in the Western Australian Centre for Rural Health has received a much-needed splash of colour after four commissioned artworks were unveiled on Thursday, May 17.

The artworks, created by Yamaji Art, reflect four different themes, representing the work carried out by the health education organisation in the Mid West and Pilbara.

More than 40 people attended the official unveiling of the artworks, which were painted by 15 different artists.

Although the four paintings are unique and distinctive, the artists used the colours found in WACRH’s logo to create a sense of harmony across the pieces.

In a video played during the launch, Yamaji Art director and artist Charmaine Green said the project was tough but rewarding.

“It was a little bit difficult at the start working together,” she said.

“There were different artists with different styles and it was a challenge to get people to the table.

“But it brought us together and at the end of the day, people will see a beautiful painting.”

As the artists involved came from a variety of different experience levels and ages, the elders worked alongside the youth, mentoring them along the way.

The youngest artist was 14, while some participants were self-taught, having painted for more than 30 years.

An additional painting was also on display in the centre’s multipurpose room, created collaboratively with WACRH staff.

Director Sandra Thompson, who took part in the collaborative piece, thanked the artists for their help.

“The collaborative painting was a really lovely idea ... and they fixed up our poor artwork,” she joked.

“There’s an incredible amount of energy and creativity in WACRH with how we approach things.

“We often forget about the importance of Aboriginal people’s longstanding traditions in their culture, and this was a way to learn more and work more respectfully with them.”

The project was first discussed around 18 months ago, but production of the paintings only started at the end of last year.

Yamaji Art manager Roni Jones said although the process was a long journey, the end result was worth it.

“One artist said you could have given birth in the project time,” she said.

“It was a great process to be involved in and the designs were driven by Yamaji staff.

“Those involved should be proud, and you wouldn’t think some of (the WACRH staff) hadn’t picked up a brush before.”

The paintings represent harmony and connectedness; health and wellbeing; teaching, passing on skills and knowledge; and working together.

A painting by Geraldton artist Colin Clarke is also on display in the room.

His piece, Our Massacres, highlights the extent of historical killings of Aboriginal people.

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