Reconciliation in action at a Jesuit school

For Reconciliation Week, we take a look at how one of our Jesuit schools is working to connect students with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture in their community.

Students at Saint Ignatius’ College in Adelaide have been learning about Aboriginal art and culture over the past few weeks, thanks to artist-in-residence Cedric Varcoe.

Artist Cedric Varcoe (right) with students at Saint Ignatius' College Adelaide.

Artist Cedric Varcoe (right) with students at Saint Ignatius’ College Adelaide.

Cedric is a contemporary artist, painting the creation stories of his Ngarrindjeri lands and waters from the lower Murray River and the Lower Lakes to the Coorong and the South Coast of Kangaroo Island.

His language groups and tribes are Ngarrindjeri and Narangga, and he is custodian of Ngarrindjeri culture.

‘Our year 8, 9 and 10 art students are working with Cedric to create paintings that will form suites of work for installation around the college’, said Saint Ignatius’ College Rector Fr Peter Hosking SJ.

Students in year 8 will be using stories shared by Cedric about his Country (Ngarrindjeri and Narangga) that were passed down to him by his grandmother and family, as inspiration for their own creations about their college environment (Kuarna land).

Year 9 art students will be working with the theme of ‘identity’. With inspiration from Cedric’s stories of his culture, they will reflect on their own identity and Ignatian story to create paintings that are unique to themselves.

Year 10 art students will be looking at the Creation story and, inspired by Cedric’s stories, will respond to their world — past and present — in their own creative way.

Cedric’s residency at the school is one of a number of initiatives aimed at raising awareness of Indigenous culture, rights and history at the school.

‘We hope our students grow in their appreciation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’, says Fr Hosking.

‘Our year 5 camp [last week] included an introduction to the Ngarrindjeri. At the Senior School this week, Kaurna Elder, John Lochowiak, will conduct a Welcome to Country ceremony for those who attend Voluntary Mass to celebrate Reconciliation Week.

‘Some of our year 10 students are preparing for immersions to the Tiwi community at Bathurst Island in July, and others to the Daly River community in September.’

On Monday this week, at the Junior School liturgy, Mr Toome and two year 11 students, Holly Clark and Eddie Debenham, unveiled a beautiful painting by Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, which depicts a dreamtime account of the Brolga and the Pelican.

The artist is the grandmother of year 5 student Montanna Page-Marranya. Miriam-Rose presented the artwork to the Jarrumwani students during their immersion to Nauiyu, Daly River last September.

Eddie Debenham, Chris Toomey, the Pelican and the Brolga Painting, Holly Clark, Montanna Page-Marranya (granddaughter of the artist, Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann)

Eddie Debenham, Chris Toome, the Pelican and the Brolga Painting, Holly Clark, Montanna Page-Marranya (granddaughter of the artist, Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann)

The Australian Jesuit Province’s Bookends Project brings together our concerns for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and asylum seekers. For more about the Province’s focus on deepening engagement with First Nations peoples, click here.

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