Koori Art Expressions: a visual treat

Creativity abounds at many Sydney schools.

Koori Art Expressions, an exhibition of artworks by students from public schools in the Sydney area, is being hosted this year by the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The exhibition opened on 15 November and a sneak preview behind the scenes reveals the talents of many school students and their diverse range of approaches to their art and sculptures.

A colourful and imaginative nest-like sculpture created by students from Malabar Public School and Matraville Sports High School incorporates rock and tree elements which the students had learnt are important gifts from the ancestors.

Sculpture titled “Connection” with hand decorated sticks and rocks.

Sculpture titled “Connection” with hand decorated sticks and rocks.

Paintings such as the one below show great skill and flair and meld traditional techniques with contemporary approaches.

Koori Art Expressions is an annual visual arts program open to all public school students in Sydney. The focus is to develop an understanding of Aboriginal culture and heritage for students and teaching staff.

“Diverting families” Amanda, Year 11, Matraville Sports High School

“Diverting families” Amanda, Year 11, Matraville Sports High School


The program was initiated just 6 years ago and is now an annual event, starting early in the year, with an exhibition focus day for teachers at the Art Gallery of NSW run by the gallery’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Department.

This is followed, by the schools taking part in a workshop at the museum,
called My Special Place, based around the museum’s Saltwater Bark
Painting Collection. Many teachers and schools took part in these workshops in
the lead-up to creating their artworks.

The special connection the Yolngu people have with their environment and how and why they created the paintings is explored. Students then look closely at the Saltwater bark paintings and discuss the importance of particular symbols that have special meaning. Then the nature of places that are special in the students’ own lives are considered and a non-verbal expression of those concepts devised in their own artwork.

This year’s theme, We value the vision: Yirrkala Bark Petitions 1963, celebrates the 50th anniversary of two bark petitions that were sent by the Yolngu people to the Australian House of Representatives that became the first traditional documents recognised by the Commonwealth Parliament and helped shape the nation’s acknowledgment of Aboriginal land rights.

The theme aligns with what students learnt during NAIDOC Week (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) in July and, judging from the great range of artworks in the Koori Art Expressions exhibition, they found it very inspiring! As Zea Vargas, coordinator of Koori Art Expressions project from Public Schools NSW, points out “art is such a good medium to learn about culture”.

The graphic identity for the exhibition was created by students in the Year 9 Photography class at Dulwich High School of Visual Arts and Design. Inspired by the artworks of the Koori Art Expressions exhibition, and using their creative talents and Photoshop skills, they designed some great concepts.

Adrienne Kabos, Design.

Leave a Reply