Inaugural Art Bursary Awarded to Paul Bong a Yidinji Artist from Babinda.

Inaugural Art Bursary Awarded to Paul Bong a Yidinji Artist from Babinda.

On 28th July the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair hosted a magical breakfast in honour of Thancoupie. As inaugural patron of CIAF alongside the Governor of Queensland, in that role she had represented the remote communities of the Cape as well as the Traditional Communities of Queensland. Thancoupie was to hold that prestigious position until her death. This role has been amended this year- the Governor, His Excellency The Honourable Paul de Jersey AC now holds this position of Patron as he wished, but in the spirit of true grit, the gently spoken but formidably erudite Yidinji TO Henrietta Fourmile now gives stirring honour to the Traditional Owners as she takes the stage for all Welcome to Country moments at all CIAF events, including the Thancoupie Bursary breakfast. She praised Thancoupie’s art, her vision for young people, her spiritual nature and through her community reconciliation work, her generous understanding of the human frailties we all share. When Thancoupie’s public sculpture commission for Cairns’ Queens Garden was first discussed between Arts Queensland, Kick Arts Cairns and Thancoupie, Henrietta revealed that prior to accepting the commission, Thancoupie went to the leaders of the Yidinji people and courteously asked “May I put my sculpture on your land?”-she had been the only artist to have ever done that. It was traditional courtesy and law- and they had agreed. Henrietta spoke of Thancoupie’s indelible presence in the far north especially in Cairns and at the time of CIAF.
As Thancoupie’s Bursary Patron, The Honourable Leneen Forde AC awarded Thancoupie’s inaugural art bursary to Paul Bong a Yidinji artist from Babinda, south of Cairns. He will continue his exploration of art printing with master printer Theo Tremblay in the Canopy Art Space in Cairns and will also travel to his exhibitions elsewhere to widen his understanding of the Australian art community and the roles of galleries and public institutions. Thancoupie had a long history of mentoring Paul Bong during her time in Cairns, encouraging him to learn about Yidinji law and imagery from his uncle Stewart Bong, and combining with them on public art works for the Brisbane international airport in the mid 1990s.The Bursary event was held in the open garden near Thancoupie’s sculpture, and as rain lifted miraculously and those magical Cairns clouds let the early morning sunlight shafts into the garden, all the VIPs present and all the hopeful artists were touched. It seemed a totally good omen for CIAF’s coming events.

Paul Bong pic
Bursary winner for 2015, Paul Bong ( left) with Jenny Isaacs and Paul’s son.
Paul will train in advanced printmaking with Theo Tremblay at Canopy Arts in Cairns

Men’s Shed Carving Project

Run as a joint venue with My Pathway, Cairns, Thancoupie’s Bursary Fund awarded a small grant to Indigenous Woods Sculptor, Kelvin Williams from Babinda and the Mokwi Napranum Men’s Group Indigenous Corporation to teach and mentor men at the Men’s Sheds, Napranum.

In September 2014, Kelvin Williams, who has been trained in traditional spear making and wished to continue to teach this skill alongside contemporary carving, travelled up from Babinda to provide two weeks of carving tuition.

One of the outcomes was the carving pictured by Kelvin himself, executed as a tribute to Thancoupie.

It will be displayed in Weipa or another prominent suitable location yet to be decided.

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