Advance Australia Fair? is the theme for this year’s NAIDOC Week — the annual celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and achievement — which will run from 6 to 13 July. Darwin artists DUWUN (TONY) LEE and LANIYUK (IAN) LEE have won the prestigious National NAIDOC Art Award for 2008. Their artwork is reproduced on the NAIDOC Week poster being distributed across Australia. The brothers’ artwork was judged best in a field of 100 entries from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.
Duwun and Laniyuk Lee are Larrakia men born and raised in Darwin. They are descended from Filipino seaman Antonio Pedro Cubillo who arrived in Australia from Bohol in 1895 and Magdelena (Lily) McKeddie, the daughter of Larrakia woman Annie Duwun and George McKeddie from Scotland. In May last year, Duwun, with his mother, aunt and another brother, Gary, visited Bohol for the Cubillo clan family reunion. Their Larrakia-Filipino connections and the story of Lily and Antonio’s love and separation due to the war in the Pacific, are significant chapters in their family’s history.
As a youngster, Duwun was taught traditional Aboriginal painting technique and has been painting for most of his life. He has travelled around the world learning, teaching and exhibiting his art works. Laniyuk has developed a distinctive style using traditional and contemporary images in a digital format. He has a Bachelor of Applied Science degree from the University of Canberra.
Together the brothers have a collaborative approach to creating artworks. Duwun does many of the designs, using ink, pencil or paint on paper or canvas. Laniyuk then scans the designs and converts them into a digital format for modification as they progress.
“Throughout the whole process we are continually discussing all aspects of the design including the colours and what they represent, the lines and shapes and the location of components,” says Laniyuk.
For the 2008 NAIDOC poster Duwun and Laniyuk explain their interpretation of the theme:
The government has said SORRY – so let’s Advance Australia and be Fair.
The kangaroo and emu are the two unique Indigenous animals that are on the Australian coat of arms and, some say, were chosen because they move forward and find it difficult to go backwards. Their positions have been switched, left and right, to represent the switch in the Governments attitude.
They are surrounded by the stars of the Southern Cross which, like Aboriginal people, have been here since the beginning of time. There must be a change in attitudes of black and white and all the colours in between. Black people must stop waiting for governments and white people to fix their problems – they must start fixing the problems that they can. Governments must not look at Indigenous problems and say “This is going to cost too much to fix” or “The problem is too big”.
Now is the best time because we are in a time of great prosperity which is ripped from the land that rightly belongs to Aboriginal people.
For the background we have used the colours of the land, the sorry is in blue representing water and a healing point. The Southern Cross is in the colours of the sunset, the time when it first comes out. The lines connecting the Southern Cross represent the spirits of our ancestors that are looking down on us and keeping an eye on us. The lines are black for our ancestors and the orange is power and knowledge that they have and have given.
Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders’ future, like this poster, can be built on the Rudd Government’s SORRY. Advance Australia, both Fair and Dark.
— Artists Duwun Lee & Laniyuk Lee