Born in Canberra, Leah Brideson is a self-taught contemporary Aboriginal artist whose works urge people to look deeper into the history of place.
She is one of five First Nations artists who have created visual stories for the Ginninderry Design Library that will be used by landscape architects and graphic designers to connect people to Country.
“My art is like a ‘visual yarn’, connecting people with the stories and meaning behind the work,” Leah said.
“The cultural landscape where Ginninderry is situated holds story and songlines that are fundamental to the First Nations peoples, the Ngunnawal, whose physical and spiritual connection to the landscape is strong.”
Leah’s work urges people to “look deeper into the history of place, to know that the landscape was and always will be interconnected with the people since time immemorial”, and to “listen wholeheartedly to the stories and knowledges of the Ngunnawal peoples”.
Inspired by the surrounding landscape, local flora and fauna, and the Murrumbidgee River, the artworks will become permanent elements in the landscape and design fabric of the Ginninderry neighbourhood.
Ginninderry arts and cultural planning adviser Tom Gray says the second phase of the design library pays homage to the stunning artworks by First Nations artists.
“Having the design library as a way to draw on those representations of place is an amazing opportunity for the built form to have that creative foundation,” he said.
“Having a set of images stamped throughout the community through its urban design elements is a way to continually remind us that First Nations people have been here for longer than we have.
“The connection to place is exciting, and I think when people start to notice these images repeated throughout Ginninderry they will feel more connected.”
Architects, graphic designers and builders will be able to borrow the artworks to use as inspiration or to incorporate into Ginninderry’s built environment, such as signage, buildings, seating and public art installations.
Some of the designs already feature on signboards on the new Shepherd’s Lookout walking trail, and Leah’s work will be used as a mural to cover a community battery that will be installed in Strathnairn.
“There’s so much landscaping in the concept design phase, so we could see the works incorporated into shade structure, stencilling on pavements or large murals,” Tom said.
“There’s lots of opportunities for these artworks to come through and really lift the suburb and make that connection with First Nations people.”
The Indigenous works make up the second phase of the design library, which, Tom says, offers “endless potential” for use across a variety of formats.
“We’re seeing that really bold, colourful style come through in the artworks with animals and landscapes depicted, and we’re really excited by that because they’re so fantastically usable in so many different ways,” he added.
A Kamilaroi woman – from her grandmother’s Country in the Gunnedah region – with strong connections to Breeza and Quirindi, Leah’s main inspiration for her work is Country, a theme she carried across to the design library.
“My stories are of spending time on my Country and also of Ngunnawal Country, though I don’t tell the stories of the mob here, I speak of my place as a visitor here and my connection to the beautiful landscape through colour and design,” she said.
Kayannie Denigan’s works feature her signature ”My Country” style, incorporating the vibrant yellows and greens of the Ginninderry landscape.
“I think that art is such an amazing thing to have as part of our urban landscape. It brings colour, it brings connections and builds community,” Kayannie said.
Kristal and Jazz Matthews, and Rayne Huddleston, also have works featured in the design library.
The community will have an opportunity to see the works and meet the artists during a Design Canberra Festival exhibition at Ginninderry’s The Link Art Space in November.
An innovative and sustainable community of international significance, Ginninderry continues to inspire a new way of living by doing things a little differently in the Canberra region.