Light and shadow have been a powerful storytelling tool long before they were the basis for the moving image. For thousands of generations in Australia, First Peoples storytelling has harnessed the movement of the world and play of light: the special glow of sunset to catch the movement of dancing feet, the flickering campfire as tales are told in the night, the story of stars and constellations told in the Dreaming.
In this multi-part artwork Gunditjmara artist Vicki Couzens references how ochre markings on the body capture and reflect light during ceremony, creating a centuries-spanning connection between traditional First Peoples storytelling and the contemporary moving image.
“Where does moving image originate? Shadow and light, elemental movement and action; see figures in formation, ceremony in the circle, moving, in rhythm, in rhyme with the heartbeat, sunlight, moon shadow, Yanmeeyarr… flickering in firelight. Dancers painted and adorned, in corroboree, in ceremony, telling story through the dance. The viewer in movement and reflection becomes part of the dance, as the figures become animated. Yanmeeyarr, flickering in the firelight, is reflected in the present; the viewer and the new technologies of today, become part of the work and the ongoing past-present-future of our storytelling continuum.” – Vicki Couzens
Yanmeeyarr is generously supported by the Sidney Myer Fund
Dr. Vicki Couzens is a Gunditjmara woman from the Western Districts of Victoria. Vicki acknowledges her Ancestors and Elders who guide her work.
She has worked in Aboriginal community affairs for 40 years Vicki’s contributions in the reclamation, regeneration and revitalisation of cultural knowledge and practice extend across the ‘arts and creative cultural expression’ spectrum including language revitalisation, ceremony, community arts, public art, visual and performing arts, and writing.
She is Senior Knowledge Custodian for Possum Skin Cloak Story and Language Reclamation and Revival in her Keerray Woorroong Mother Tongue.
Vicki is employed at RMIT as a Vice Chancellors Indigenous Research Fellow developing her Project ‘watnanda koong meerreeng , tyama-ngan malayeetoo (together body and country, we know long time)’ (The key objective of this Project is to produce model/s, pathways and resources for continuing the reinvigoration of Aboriginal Ways of Knowing Being and Doing with a special focus on language revitalisation. The Project investigates and examines how revitalisation of cultural knowledges and practices affect healing in Aboriginal individuals, families and communities and builds resilience and capability towards sovereign nation building aspirations, opportunities and a realised living legacy.)
Vicki is rebuilding the Gunditjmara Grammar to facilitate a new phase of language learning through immersive experiences and home based, self-directed family clan learning. She is currently writing plain language resources for this community learning.
The Keerray Woorroong Gunditjmara artist's striking visual installation bookends our new centrepiece exhibition.
On display until:
ACMI: Gallery 1
16 February 2031
Keep the fire burning
Yanmeeyarr, meaning ‘flickering in firelight’, shares how light and shadow are at the core of the moving image. It reflects the past, present and future of stories told by First Peoples utilising these elements, as well as bringing to light stories that have, for too long, been kept in the dark.