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Exhibition a testament to hope

pamela-nathan-513x640by Pamela Nathan

Re: ‘Hobson’s choice a cape of good hope’, by Michael Gordon, published in The Age on Friday June 14 2013

Naomi Hobson had the opening of her art exhibition at the Alcaston Gallery in Melbourne.  She is from Coen, Cape York, an Aboriginal community which has participated in the Cape York revolution reform which has empowered Aboriginal elders to have legal powers as Commissioners who help their people work through problems and where welfare is tied to responsibility and getting kids to school and keeping them healthy.  Naomi says “there is joy of being able to take something of the stories given to me by my elders and share that through my art”.  She credits Noel Pearson, the  Aboriginal lawyer who architected the reform saying “there is a lot of opportunity through the work that Noel does for people like myself to orbit in and out of both worlds – and come back and make a contribution to our community whether it’s through art, dance academia or sport”.

The article refers to the revolutionary work of Noel Pearson who has been able to articulate the revolutionary vision for his people in Cape York. I spent a week with the Family Responsibility Commission in January this year visiting Mossman and Hopevale where Noel Pearson was born and these communities are also part of the social reform experiment. I spoke with some of the Aboriginal Commissioners who all spoke of their growing empowerment and the increasing responsibility of community members and who proudly showed their art centres and spoke of the increasing well-being of children and adults and their capacity to develop Aboriginal enterprise and revive and renew traditional practices into their new world. Noel Pearson says there has been progress on many fronts: “I keep saying to our crew that we’re climbing Mount Everest but – and there’s no doubt about this – base camp is far below us”. Psychotherapists will say that to grow and change takes time.

According to Gordon, federal Arts minister, Tony Burke, said at the opening of the exhibition, “the moment I walked in here, I wasn’t just taken by the genius of Naomi Hobson, I was taken by the beauty and the history and the heritage of the cape”. My week in Cape York was one of intense connection and hope and I for one look forward to seeing Naomi’s powerful and colourful painting; a testament to hope.