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Rocks for Reconciliation

Over the past few weeks students have been busy collecting rocks and stones from a place that is special to them to form part of an art installation that artist and CCGS teacher, Judith Price, is creating for the Reconciliation Art Competition, held at Gosford Regional Gallery to coincide with National Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June).

No ordinary rocks

As students chose their rock, they were asked to reflect on the connection they felt to that place and, at the same time, try to understand the strong connection to the land that is integral to the traditional owners of Australia.

Places students chose ranged from their own home to their favourite beach or their grandparents garden. One student went to the stable where her horse is to find a rock, as riding is such an important aspect in her life. Another student specifically chose a rock from his collection that was shaped like a boomerang thus honouring the Indigenous culture. During the recent holidays, a family visited a loved property in western NSW and brought several beautiful rocks back.

Artist and CCGS teacher, Judith Price, discusses the project with 6W

Students then had the choice of bringing the rock into school in its natural state or they could decorate it using ‘Reconciliation’ as the theme. Students in 6W used a variety of unique techniques to decorate their rocks including sticks to create dot paintings as a tribute to traditional Aboriginal art techniques and their finger prints to represent ‘connection’.

Students from 6W use paint brushes, sticks and their own finger prints to decorate rocks

Teacher of 1M, Mrs Jacqui McAtamney used the project as an opportunity to discuss with her Year 1 class the idea of the importance of place and the notion the rocks represent part of a place and a link to all people including the indigenous Darkinjung tribe (who have left trees with canoe scars on them), the farmers on the land and finally her house.

Students were first read ‘Rainbow Serpent’ (as Jacqui’s property is near Copacabana, which is also called Allagai Bay meaning Place of Snakes) and studied some dot paintings. Jacqui then dug up sandstone from her paddock, painted them white and conducted an in class ceremony ‘From my land to your land’ and gave each student a rock to dot paint.

 “We had a wonderful, engaging lesson. In the handover ceremony the sandstone heated up in the sun and I placed it in the students’ hand. They then had to wait until it cooled before painting” said Jacqui.

1M were inspired by the book Rainbow Serpent and dot paintings for their rocks

Students from 1M decorating their rocks

Staff also volunteered for the project. One staff member used the opportunity to reflect on her own family tradition of collecting heart shaped rocks whenever she and her two daughters went to the beach. While another now retired staff member, scoured Dingo and Bulga Creeks at her family farm with her grandsons in search of rocks of all shapes and sizes, finally choosing two stones that looked like an eagle’s head and a dinosaur before posting them to Judith for inclusion in the artwork installation.

The installation

Artist Judith Price estimates that CCGS students and staff collected in the vicinity of 100-200 rocks for her installation piece.

“As the rocks accumulated, the installation of displaying them in various glass vessels grew in size and arrangement. To complete the concept, one large vessel (totem like) was partially filled with the washed up pumice stone from a local Darkinjung  beach and symbolic stones were placed on them…..Love, Peace, Traditional Dot Painting inspired patterns and the Aboriginal Land Rights flag.”
Judith’s artwork is dedicated to the memory of Sean Lonergan, founder of the Reconciliation Exhibition.

More information:

The Reconciliation Art Competition is held at Gosford Regional Gallery. The event provides an opportunity for local Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to showcase their work about reconciliation to the Central Coast community and provides a practical and positive way to promote reconciliation within the whole community.

The exhibition runs from 23 May to 12 July at Gosford Regional Gallery, 36 Webb Street, East Gosford