Crew Blog | Hye Jung Kim: Three Paintings of Hope on Minjerribah Island
On the morning of July second, we joined the Quandamooka elders for morning tea at the local museum here on Minjerribah Island, also known as North Stradbroke Island, located across Moreton Bay from Brisbane on the Queensland Coast. What I did not know then, that I know now, is how significant the day was going to be and how thankful I am to have met the elders of the Quandamooka, the aboriginal people from the Moreton Bay area, who were willing to share their stories with us.
The very first place that Aunty Evelyn, one of the elders, took us to was Bummiera (Brown Lake). This is a culturally sacred place because it is the location where Kabool, the rainbow serpent resides. Aunty Evelyn then asked the spirits’ and ancestors’ permission for us to be at the lake. After we looked around for a little while and took in the beauty of the location, Aunty Evelyn had three pieces of artwork to share with us.
The very first one she shared with us was a drawing of a healthy gum tree. The photo symbolized the Quandamooka people before western contact. The tree was depicted as a very healthy, strong gum tree with strong roots to Mother Earth. Aunty Evelyn mentioned how people stand tall because they have healthy roots that are grounded in Mother Earth and also the importance of Quandamooka people and their relationship to the land. She mentioned how the birds and trees speak to the Quandamooka people about various activities such as fishing and how the people valued the connection that they have with the land and their environment.
The second drawing was of a gum tree without any leaves and some branches cut off. She explained to us that the drawing characterizes what happened when the Westerners came in contact with the indigenous people. The Quandamooka people were losing some of their characteristics, but still had firm roots to connect to Mother Earth. The emphasis here was that as long as the roots were firmly grounded, the tree would still hold strong, even if it lost some of the healthy characteristics. Similar to Hawai‘i, the indigenous people were banned from using their language and practicing their culture.
The last drawing that was shared with us was of young healthy gum trees. It symbolized how the children in the community were growing strong and learning about the culture that was once almost lost. It characterized how the forest will be healthy again because the children are growing and learning about their culture and history.
This is truly a story of hope that Aunty Evelyn shared with us. The Quandamooka people are resilient and the culture will survive and become stronger as they meet adversity. A quote that I have written down from the day is “find your roots that ground you down to Mother Earth, cause nobody can take that away from you.” It was truly a special day and I am honored to have been guided by the Quandamooka elders through their lands.