New Manager for Wik and Kugu Arts Centre  

[by Liz Inglis]


Keith Wikmunea, Gabe Waterman, Leigh Namponan, Garry Namponan and Irene Pootchemunka at the Wik and Kugu Arts centre in Aurukun. Image: supplied

Aurukun resident Gabe Waterman has been appointed Manager of the Wik and Kugu Arts Centre.


Welcoming Mr Waterman to the role, Aurukun Shire Council Mayor Keri Tamwoy said she was looking forward to seeing Aurukun’s artists create new carvings and paintings for a series of upcoming exhibitions.


“After the disruption caused by the pandemic last year, our artists are back at work crafting the unique wooden carvings, paintings and assembled pieces that have earned the attention of the art world,” she said.


“The Wik and Kugu camp dog carvings called ku’ are a favourite, but buyers are also very interested in the exquisite carved birds and feather flowers that are part of Aurukun’s culture.


“Mr Waterman’s experience with the Woyan-min Biocultural project will bring a new focus to the community’s art by ensuring there is a strong link to the Wik Mungkan language.”


Mr Waterman has been working with the project for the past two years, teaching audiovisual skills to disengaged youth so they can document the culture and language of their Elders.


He has a long connection with the community after his father Noel Waterman was adopted by the Pienkinna family in the eighties while working on the outstations.


Gabe Waterman visited Aurukun regularly and attended school in the community for a short time, but has made Aurukun home since completing tertiary studies in Social Science Environments four years ago.


He has worked at the school and as the interim Arts Centre Manager. With a solid understanding of Wik Mungkan, Mr Waterman is planning to strengthen the connection between language and art to better showcase Wik and Kugu culture to the world.


“Language represents a whole life world that gives greater insight into cultural nuances and the Art Centre is a great fit for that as it enables local people to express themselves in their own language to a broader audience,” he said.


“Our first multimedia project will be Ritual, an exhibition of Alair Pambegan’s Bonefish Story at the Cairns Art Gallery in conjunction with the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, which will include a documentary produced by the Woyan-min Biocultural project.


“Aurukun’s Elders are the custodians of the stories behind their art and these oral histories can continue to be passed down by involving the younger generations in the story telling process through modern media such as digital art.”


The Wik & Kugu Arts Centre has a gallery, men’s art studio with a work shed, and a women’s art studio named after eminent artist Akay Koo’oila.


Visitors are welcome. Call Arts Centre Manager Gabe Waterman on (07) 4060 6843 or email to organise a video call via FaceTime, WhatsApp or Skype to show you around the Gallery and see the artworks.


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