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Byron Shire
February 2, 2023

Gulihl Art exhibition – bringing First Nations artists and their connection to Country to you

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Melinda Simon, Oral Roberts and Michelle Michels and other First Nations artists will be displaying their work. Photo supplied

Byron’s ‘pop-up’ Firefly Art Gallery is presenting the work of local First Nations artists in the upcoming Gulihl Art exhibition in Marvell Hall Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 December. The social enterprise style gallery based in the Byron Arts and Industry Estate holds the artworks from First Nations artists from, and living in, the Bundjalung Nation. 

Michelle Michels, director of Firefly Arts and Design, works with local First Nations artists to promote cultural and educational art. ‘First Nations art is based around depictions of Country, lore and the totem animals. This reminds us of the importance of the land and flora and fauna, it is sacred to our First Nations brothers and sisters and the art works can be gentle reminder of the beauty of Country and the precious animals and to protect and preserve all this.’ 

Artworks from Country

Gulihl translates as ‘smart’ or ‘clever’. All these works are definitely clever and smart art. Which all our community has been through this year, we thought it was a great time to share these amazing original artworks from Country with everyone in the region’.

The exhibition will include local First Nations artists such as Widjabul Wia-bul artist Oral Roberts, and amazing women artists Kate Constantine (Gadigal/Konstantina) and Belle Budden (Wakka Wakka/Kierrabelle Art) with a wide array of work including traditional and contemporary paintings, native plant pigment artworks, and woven wearable pieces. Emerging artist, Melinda Simon (Worimi artist), will be joining the collection of talented artists. Mel paints sea creatures and mermaids from her Country in vibrant colours, her artworks are mesmerising. Artist from other First Nations will also be included in the show. 

Melinda Simon’s art will be on exhibition at Marvell Hall. Byron Bay. Photo supplied

Creating, part of life

‘I’ve been creating since I was a young child of four or five years old, sitting on the floor drawing with my father,’ explains Mel. 

‘What most inspires me is Country and I wish to pay homage to nature, bringing about an awareness to care for our environment. I hope people will take away some shared knowledge of the beauty of Country that we all live in; and for them to share the love we have in caring for our Country so that we may help stop climate change and the extinction of our beautiful environment.’

Oral Roberts has mentored many artists across Bundjalung Country and his work has contributed to the restoration of cultural practice and inspiredg many others to keep up their cultural practice. His well known work features important totems and stories of Country. Oral has been painting since he was six years old. 

‘I’d like to see people going away feeling happy, with a smile on their face, understand what we are and how we love this land,’ he said.

Love of Country is what unifies the artists. Community and Country have been under enormous pressure through the past few years and the Gulihl exhibition will showcase a celebration of First Nations connections to both. Firefly Art Gallery will bring together community to support and celebrate the work of our First Nations artists.

Experience our Culture

Kate Constaintine has exhibited work in London, Paris, Edinburgh, Herefordshire, Sydney and Melbourne, but ‘I always love coming home to a mob exhibition to support those that have always supported me,’ she says.

‘This exhibition is the perfect way for you and your kids to come and experience our Culture – I sincerely look forward to seeing you there.

‘We have been long silenced, long misunderstood and mistreated – it’s time to hit the regeneration cycle and put things right. I’m showing some pieces inspired by the cycling of nature and its patterns. No start, no middle and no end – but instead a cycle of life. It’s so interesting to disconnect your mind, as our old people have done for millennia, and stop thinking in linear time and begin thinking in cycles. It’s amazing how many of our so-called priorities and privileges are irrelevant when we can do this,’ she said.

‘I’d love for the local community to come out in force and support these amazing established local artists. Uncle Oral has been creating up on Country for decades and Belle has been practising but also advocating for Aboriginal people in this area since her teens. These beautiful people deserve the honour of a big turnout and lots of sales. I’m just very happy and humbled to be included in the lineup and be able to lend my voice to raise them up!’ 

The Gulihl Art First Nations exhibition is in Marvell Hall, Byron Bay on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 December. The show opens at noon on Saturday with an opening event and artists’ talk from 3–5pm. The show will be open 11am–5pm on Sunday. For more information contact [email protected].

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