Q&A with Dr Bronwyn Bancroft
Bundjalung artist Dr. Bronwyn Bancroft was recently awarded the inaugural NSW Aboriginal Creative Fellowship.
Create NSW interviewed Dr Bronwyn Bancroft to ask what NAIDOC Week means to her, reflect on her impressive creative career, and the themes that inform her work.
When did you realise the power of visual art, and when did art start to play a role in your life?
Since I was a young girl, I have been captivated by the bush. The smell, lines, textures, shapes. A treasury of unusual stories and stones in particular have a particular resonance in my life. In 2015, my 94 year old Uncle Pat bequeathed me his axe, stone and pocketknife collection, objects gathered since the age of 7.
That is the power of place to me and that informs the work that I create. I have created all my life, and art has been a major catalyst for change but more importantly, being a mother is my highest priority.
You have an impressive career, working across many different mediums and professional roles – including visual artist, children’s book author/illustrator, director of your company Designer Aboriginals, co-founding member of Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative, and not to mention holding various board positions. What skills have you gained from working across these different artforms/roles? And how has it informed your practice?
My career has taken me on a journey informed by many different levels of the world we live in. I am a Bundjalung Artist, woman and have always strived to learn and to share skills accumulated on the way, through workshops, conferences and mentoring.
Possessing a divergent skill set has allowed me the independence in decision making and my experiences as a Company Board Director have highlighted the complexity of business and strategies.
I create everyday so I can touch base with my visual storytelling.
All your artworks have strong cultural messages. In particular, your books are often about Country and Mother Nature. How would you like your practice to connect with the next generation and what would you like them to take away from it?
Through the different mediums of my artistic practice, from major public artwork commissions, painting, book illustrating/writing and mentoring, I connect with the next generation. My artwork speaks to a range of visual narratives that deal with caring for this country, the environment, the people and the message to always be brave as fear will inhibit.
It is an honour to record, reinterpret and create a different perspective on my family, our Country and the richness that is embedded in these lives lived.
Congratulations on being named the inaugural NSW Aboriginal Creative Fellow. Part of your Fellowship program involves researching the ‘unsettling’ of Bundjalung Country by Edward Ogilvie. How will this research inform your Fellowship plans and your collaboration with the State Library of NSW?
A component of my research with the State Library of NSW will be being able to access the Ogilvie family diary entries and ledgers and maps of occupation over time that will illuminate a very different perspective to my family and their understanding of events from a historical and social context.
I have accumulated a parallel historical and familial timeline that I hope to connect to the research I get to explore. I am positive the research will inform another wave of creativity that is connected to the pride I feel about my family.
We understand it’s early on into your Fellowship, but can you share with us that you would like to achieve with the Fellowship?
It is my intention to utilise the fellowship opportunities that the State Library of NSW will offer me. I am creating a children’s book around the consequences of colonisation. I will also be creating paintings and additional artwork that will be inspired by the information uncovered.
I also want to share a framework around how I have conducted my family research over decades and also highlight the opportunities the State Library offered me that accelerated the research.
The NAIDOC 2021 theme is Heal County! This calls for all of us to continue to seek greater protections for our lands, our waters, our sacred sites and our cultural heritage from exploitation, desecration, and destruction. What does this mean to you?
I have been consistent since a young girl/woman around the need to cultivate respect for each other, our Country, the land and its water. To me there is nothing greater than nature and her bounteous gifts that are meant to be shared and nurtured, not raped and pillaged.
The continued desecration of ancient sites in Australia is devastating and my heart cries when I hear of another tragedy that has occurred in these nations. If we want a world to live in, we all must leap to the protection of it for our future generations.