Stories of Survival and Belonging: We Interview NAIDOC Artist Alicia Close

Alicia is a proud Goenpul woman of the Quandamooka people. Her home country is Minjerribah, the northern part of Stradbroke Island. She grew up listening to and learning about her family's stories of Quandamooka Country.

Today we get to hear about what inspires her, her life and her NAIDOC 2020 artwork “Our Beautiful Country”. The artwork tells an incredible story about Quandamooka country and much of the Australian coastline.

We know you grew up watching your grandmother doing arts and crafts, how has this inspired your journey as an artist?

Watching my Grandmother try and master many, many forms of art/craft taught me patience, the beauty in crafts and a will to learn and keep busy. She’d say, don’t be lazy or you’ll get what Paddy shot at (nothing). She even learnt short hand in her late 60’s!

Tell us about your NAIDOC 2020 artwork ‘Our Beautiful Country’, what story does it tell?

Our Beautiful Country is about the survival of our people, the survival of our stories with no written form. These stories retell of the rising of sea levels, a truly amazing event that happened thousands of years ago. We share these stories of our culture to anyone who is wanting to learn and gain a better understanding of who we are as a people. We live in this beautiful country that is home to the oldest living culture. Something that each and everyone one of us should be very proud of.

One of these stories comes from your home, Quandamooka country, tell us more about that story?

The story from my country is called the Battle of the land, air and sea creatures. The goanna, hawk and dolphin, they all wanted to be bossman. Moreton Bay was once a swampy land area and Minjerribah was once the outer sand dunes of the area. As the battle raged, the hawk swooped down and stole a spear from the goanna and then speared the dolphin. That is how the dolphin got his blow hole. Out of that blow hole spilled blood and water, filling the bay with water and the blood giving the soil the red colour which you now see today in many parts of the Redlands and Bay areas. The whale didn’t like all the fighting and took off down south. Every year he comes back up north passing through Quandamooka sea country and you often see him reuniting with his old bunji (friend) buangan (dolphin).

What does this year’s NAIDOC theme “Always Was, Always Will Be” mean to you?

This year's theme to me is a statement that says loud and proud, yes, this land was inhabited by people, my people, for thousands of years. We survived. Our culture will continue to survive and continue to strengthen.

Why is it important for you to share your artwork with the world?

To educate. So people can understand what it is and what it means to have that connection to your country and culture. So those stories and language will always be kept alive for the younger generations.

Where do you gather inspiration? What have you been inspired by recently?

The landscape inspires me, the colours of the ocean, beaches and reading old historical books. Many of my paintings are about ancestors, my Old people. I watched from a young age the fight for our rights, what my Elders went through, the struggles they faced and how long and hard they fought. My art is about honouring them. It took 17 years for Quandamooka people to be acknowledged as the traditional owners in a white man's court of law.

What’s it like to see your artwork become clothing?

It’s amazing but at the same time I’m the type of person that likes to blend into the background and not say much and let my art speak for me.

What are your hopes and plans for the future?

For the future....I hope to see unity. I plan to keep painting...in between raising a 13 year old, 11 year old and 9 year old triplets.

 Check out more more of Alicia’s beautiful artwork at Terrangerri Arts - Quandamooka Country Designs. 

Discover her NAIDOC range here.