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Image courtesy of the artist Photo by Carl Warner

Hope O’Chin (Kabi KabiWakka Wakka) Maroochydore Horizons (detail) 2022 acrylic on canvas 45 x 60cm

Finding common ground and connecting cultures starts with acknowledging and respecting our differences.

First Nations senior elder, artist and educator, Dr Hope O’Chin, shares the ethos behind her latest exhibition Saltwater Dreaming: Recent Works of Dr Hope O’Chin, on show until August 13 at Caloundra Regional gallery.

The works link her people’s story of the first surfer, the Dolphin, to current riders of the waves and how both co-inhabit on the shores of her Country.

“Culture is not static, it incorporates all around it, and the culture of First Nations peoples in Australia, therefore now also includes the diversity of cultures that have more recently come to this continent from right across the world,” Dr Hope said.

“By respecting the differences, we will find that we have more that unites us than divides us.”

The first lifesavers

Dr Hope’s inclusive vision is communicated through her beautiful works which draw parallels between today’s lifesavers and First Nations lifesavers, the human protectors of life and ocean environments.

“In ancient times such a challenge was pursued by individual families and members of First Nations who hunted and gathered food on each of their respective lands,” she said.

“My people, the Kabi-Kabi First Nation, gathered for ceremony and feasts at saltwater festivals on these very beaches of the Sunshine Coast shores.

“Perhaps this tradition continues with modern day lifesavers who provide present day human protection of life and ocean environments of the Australian Coastline.

“They, too, gather in festivals, and test the waves with bodies and boards mirroring the ancestors.”

Phil Graham, Professor Emeritus at University of the Sunshine Coast said Saltwater Dreaming spoke of Hope’s deep cultural and ancestral connections to the waters of the East Coast, from Kabi Kabi country on the Sunshine Coast to the Kuku Yalanji waters of the Far North.

Uniquely generous and sensitive

“The exhibition is a document of spirituality as much as it is one of deep expression and connection to Country, a means of telling stories in the uniquely generous and sensitive way that Hope has made a hallmark of her life,” Professor Graham said.

These thoughts were echoed by Sunshine Coast Arts Portfolio Councillor Rick Baberowski who said Aunty Hope’s generous sharing of her culture enabled the wider community to make connection with place.

“Aunty Hope is an artist, an elder, a teacher and a storyteller and her work continues to contextualise contemporary Indigenous culture and its relationship to broader community development in Australia,” Cr Baberowski said.”

Also on show at the Gallery is Ghost net sculptures from Pormpuraaw, on loan from Pormpuraaw Art and Cultural Centre through FireWorks Gallery, Brisbane.,

These artworks utilise recycled materials, in particular nets that have been dumped by commercial fishing boats. Four of these works were exhibited in Australia, Defending the Oceans: Ghost Net Sculptures at The Paris Aquarium and the United Nations in Geneva in 2017.

Stay up to date with all the latest news, events and exhibitions by subscribing to the e-newsletter at gallery.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au or following @caloundraregionalgallery on facebook and Instagram.

Caloundra Regional Gallery is open from 10am, Tuesday to Sunday, and located at 22 Omrah Avenue, Caloundra.