Obi Art Prize – the gift of giving

Manisha Broom's winning artwork ‘Courage’ was made from a lino cut

Manisha Broom’s winning artwork ‘Courage’ was made from a lino cut

Three young artists acknowledged at the Obi Art Prize exhibition have had their artworks purchased by Angie Mulgrew, who appreciated the understanding and respect the children put into their work. The purchases were in support of the Obi Art Prize – Maleny Neighbourhood Centre fundraiser, and Angie then re-gifted the paintings back to the children – as a thank you for their time, creativity and generosity of spirit.

by Gay Liddington

While browsing the inaugural 2017 Obi Art Prize exhibition at the Maleny Community Centre it was the entries and awards in the Youth category that captured my attention.

The idea that art allows children to express, explore, experiment and expand came to the fore when the initiative was presented to students, Prep to Grade 6 at Maleny’s Ananda Marga River School. Twenty-seven students entered, ten made the final cut and four took out major awards.

Alieta Belle teaches media studies, visual arts and drama at the school.

“We were invited to promote the Obi Art Prize to our students. I was happy to dedicate some art classes and present themes to the children. Each worked on their individual ideas. Students who wanted to refine their work continued during the school lunch break and at home.”

The criteria for artists was to positively express ‘RESPECT’ in relation to: Domestic Violence; Indigenous Healing; LGBTI Communities; Refugees.

“Instead of discussing negative social issues I presented it in a positive way. In relation to domestic violence I asked what a respectful, happy family would look like?

“Many of our students are very aware of refugees and passionate about the subject. We discussed aspects such as people fleeing their country and their need to find a new safe place to live. We talked about how we could show these people respect.

“The aboriginal healing topic was also interesting. We looked at what we value about aboriginal culture and how they looked after and respected the land before white people came.

“That’s where Kieran’s work fitted in because he showed a positive image of the land. He was very focused from the beginning.”

Ten-year old Kieran Reid won the Encouragement Award for his work titled The Healing Tree. It was created using coloured pencils and a black line marker. His artist statement is an expression of youthful insight.

My artwork acknowledges aboriginal wisdom and how aboriginal people looked after the land in the past and still today. My artwork is about respecting nature, the elements and the animals. The image of the fire, the two logs, the two birds and the heart represents love for family and friends. The mountains and the tree represent strength. The sun and the moon represent balance.

Kieran, who wants it known that he will be 11 in August, is a creative soul who loves to immerse himself in art and music.

“I like drawing about nature and the elements. I came up with this really cool idea of a big tree with branches entwining. Then I thought it would be nice to add the elements so I put in the fireplace, the waves in front and the mountains in the background. The tree represents life so to me it’s like the tree of life.”

Kieran believes that working together creates a better outcome for all.

“I reckon we need to respect aboriginals and their culture because they were here before us. You just can’t take someone’s land,” he said.

While Kieran’s focus was on indigenous healing, 11-year old Manisha Broom’s art was inspired by the subject of refugees.

Manisha won the 2017 Obi Art Prize – Youth Award for her thoughtful lino cut artwork titled Courage. I was amazed and deeply moved when I viewed her entry and read the profound artist statement.

The bird in my picture is taking flight through a storm to a safe place. I respect the courage refugees need to flee.

I asked Manisha why she chose refugees as the focus for her art, a practice she describes as calming.

“People don’t treat them very well and they deserve more respect. I learn about it mostly at school. One of my old teachers works with refugee kids and I just like what she does.”

The prize winners were informed of their award prior to the opening of the exhibition. Manisha revealed how she received the news.

“I was on a climbing holiday with my Dad at Brooyar, some place in the middle of nowhere. My Mum got a phone call and then texted Dad. I was really happy.”

Sport, playing the guitar and reading, particularly about medieval times, serves as a foundation for this young person. Free thinking Manisha shared thoughts about her hope for the future of refugees.

“We should give refugees a better home and treat them equally to ourselves. We have a lot of space so I think we could share that with them instead of trapping them. They’re coming from a pretty hard life so I think they should be given something better than what they get.”

Second prize in the Youth category went to 10-year old Chloe Mead for her entry The Healing Field. Third prize was awarded to 8-year old Ishtah Keyalr Betts with Love in Families.

Alieta Belle describes herself as a facilitator of the artistic process. It is obvious that her student’s endeavours reflect deep understanding and compassion.

“It is important to support community events such as the Obi Art Prize. It’s a great initiative with good values on a social theme.

“Children have different intelligences. One of those is artistic. My role as a teacher is to create space for the students. I may give them guidance in some techniques but essentially, they all have creativity and it’s an expression. I’m interested in facilitating that freedom of expression.”

As part of the Obi Art Prize, 27 singer songwriters from around the world  contributed to Sing for Change. From 6pm on August 26, the Maleny Artisan Market will showcase many of those singers, profits from the bar help the Maleny Neighbourhood Centre.