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The History and Celebration of NAIDOC week - Featuring Steven Bekue

06 July 2022

 

Tracing its origins to the Aboriginal rights groups that formed to boycott Australia Day and establish Aboriginal electorates in 1920, NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) has been a driving force behind the recognition of First Nation Australians as the legitimate owners of the land of Australia. NAIDOC seeks to increase awareness of the culture, status and treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within the wider Australian community. The history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights movements has been a long and painful uphill struggle for many brave individuals and communities.  

An early breakthrough for the movement happened on Australia Day 1938. Now known as the Day of Mourning, thousands of protesters marched through Sydney to demand equal rights and accountability for the heinous racial crimes committed against Aborigines. The success of the event provided the momentum needed to make the Day of Mourning an annual event, held the Sunday before Australia Day. This continued until 1955, when the date was changed to July and became a celebration of Aboriginal culture, as well as the mourning of Aboriginal lives lost or destroyed by foreign occupation. This day was known as Aborigines Day, and NAIDOC was established to oversee its development. 

Since expanding to a week of celebration and recognition in 1974, NAIDOC week has become an opportunity for all Australians to learn about First Nations culture and participate in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights movement. Starting from the original date of Aborigines Day (the first Sunday of July), and ending the Sunday after, NAIDOC has been instrumental in the creation of federal policies granting land rights and equal opportunity to Aboriginal communities.  

The central theme behind this year’s NAIDOC week is Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! Emphasising direct action and harnessing the momentum created by recent developments in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights movement, NAIDOC week in 2022 is all about calling out racism, protesting for Constitutional change and supporting communities in need.  

The NAIDOC website features a ‘Local Events’ section that can direct anyone hoping to participate in community celebrations or visit cultural exhibitions. Marches and festivals are hosted in most major cities, and the emergence of online events during COVID-19 has allowed people from all over the world to become a part of the NAIDOC festivities.  

For NAIDOC week 2022, Hinkler is proud to present the Mindbogglers Artisan: Connection to Country and Mindbogglers Artisan: Saltwater People jigsaws.

These puzzles feature original artworks by Bundjalong, Yuggera and Bidjara artist Steven Bekue. 

 

 

ABOUT STEVEN BEKUE 

Steven is an Australian Aboriginal artist and proud Bundjalung, Yuggera and Bidjara man. He was born and raised on the Gold Coast by his mother alongside his two brothers and sister. He is now raising three children of his own on the Gold Coast. 

"Being a Saltwater man and growing up on the coastal lands of the Bundjalung Nation, I always feel the spiritual connection to the saltwater, and it provides me with healing whenever I’m close to it." 

"I always had a passion for art. What inspired me to begin painting was watching my family members create amazing pieces of Indigenous artwork when I was growing up. It makes me so happy to be able to teach people about Aboriginal culture, keeping it alive and strong. I have been telling the stories of what I’ve learnt about my culture and Country where I grew up through my artwork since 2017. My love for creating art is not only a way of visually expressing my strong passion for Aboriginal culture but it is also a very therapeutic and restorative process."

 

 

CONNECTION TO COUNTRY

Connection to Country is a 500-piece puzzle representing artist Steven Bekue’s connection to the Bundjalung Nation. In this artwork, Aboriginal artist Steven Bekue shares the stories of the Dirawong (Goanna spirit) as one of the creators of the Bundjalung Country and protector of its people. Steven is a proud Bundjalung, Yuggera and Bidjara man. 

“This artwork represents my connection to Country, which is the Bundjalung Nation. As a proud Bundjalung man, I am spiritually connected to the land, waterways, skies, animals, and plants of the Bundjalung Nation.” 

“The Bundjalung Nation is land covering what is also known as the northern coastal area of New South Wales. The Bundjalung Nation also covers the Southern Eastern coast of Queensland and inland as far as the Great Dividing Range. Our Country is our identity and a place we can go to heal, where we can learn cultural practices and tell stories about the land passed down from our Ancestors.” 

“Our people need our land for a variety of things, such as our spirituality, mental wellbeing and physical connection. Our Ancestors have told Dreamtime stories for thousands of years about how the lands and waters were created so it’s very important we keep sharing the stories to keep our connection to Country and culture alive through generations.” 

“The goanna in this image represents Dirawong (the Goanna spirit) of the Bundjalung people. The Dirawong is one of the creators of the Bundjalung Country and is also a protector of its people from the rainbow snake.” 

 

 

SALTWATER PEOPLE

“This artwork represents the Saltwater people and our connection to the Bundjalung Nation. The saltwater is important to us as it gives us healing, our spirituality, and our connection to food sources and totems. I grew up hunting from the creeks of Currumbin. We would go spearing for crabs, oystering and fishing. This is something I would do with my brothers, uncles and cousins. We would walk through the mangroves to hunt for crabs at night, sitting along the banks of the creek fishing and knocking the oysters off the rock.” 

“We respect and look after our waterways because of our cultural connection and what it provides for us. By continuing these traditions with our children, our identity as Saltwater people is kept alive.” 

 

Finally, we would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the Bunurong land upon which Hinkler is located. We also pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.