Still Sacred and Golden: A reminder of the true gold

Still Sacred and Golden: A reminder of the true gold
Kaylah Joelle Baker

An exhibition focused on celebrating plants and cultural practices is being presented at the Koorie Heritage Trust, but while not blatantly obvious from first glance, the work actually explores deeper themes.

Behind the Still Sacred and Golden work is award-winning multimedia visual artist and proud Wadawurrung woman Dr Deanne Gilson, who through her work hopes to share how the objectification of Aboriginal women has resulted in deep pain – a topic she closely examined in her PhD at Deakin University.

“I am looking at the objects of our daily lives and as a First Nations artist responding to the objectified and yet showing us as still here, and our culture is still sacred to us,” Dr Gilson said.

“The flowers are all about honouring the beauty of Country and our women with the knowledge held in the baskets I will be painting.”

The exhibition has 17 new paintings and each speaks about how Aboriginal women who were subjected to objectification by both the male and female colonial gaze, particularly within Dr Gilson’s ancestral line, lost their spiritual connection to place, Country and each other.

“I hope my artwork aids in some small way towards the awakening of my women’s spirit once again. The bond for me is still sacred and it is not broken, but it has been just quietly resting until now,” she said.

Dr Gilson grew up in Naarm – Melbourne – before relocating back to her Ancestral Country, which includes Ballarat and surrounding areas, with her family.

As an experienced artist, Dr Gilson’s previous work has surrounded deep themes of colonial disruption, loss of family, culture, language and traditional women’s practices and the continuing impact of loss on Aboriginal women today.

Through the self-reflective aspect of her contemporary art she hopes people can take time to heal, and disrupt and challenge the gaze.

The concept of celebrating both the plants, cultural practices and contemporary women’s business comes through within the exhibition’s title of Still Sacred and Golden. A strong title with an even stronger meaning behind it, similar to Dr Gilson’s work.

“The gold references two things for me, the gold fields in which I live and that our knowledge is golden and important and worth more than gold,” she said.

“My ancestors had no use of gold itself, it is just a metaphor. The true gold isn’t the gold from the gold fields, it’s us.”

Still Sacred and Golden opens Saturday, June 18 and continues at Koorie Heritage Trust in Federation Square until Sunday, September 18. •

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