Painting our Dreams: Fitzroy Crossing mural inspires local youth

Published on Thursday, 2 December 2021 at 9:09:21 AM

Painting our Dreams: Fitzroy Crossing mural inspires local youth

The new mural painted on the visitor’s centre at Fitzroy Crossing is a labour of nocturnal love; painted in the dead of night by dozens of local kids, some of whom had never held a paintbrush before.

Lead artist Hozaus Claire, 26, a Gooniyandi-Bunubaand and Walmajurri man travelled back from Broome to work with local young people, collating their ideas and passions into a striking work that spans 13 metres, livening up a previously dull wall.

“In terms of culture and country I have always been connected,” says Claire, whose work is displayed in galleries across the Kimberley and routinely fetches thousands of dollars.

“I always listened to the elders, went out fishing, camping and hunting. That has led to me having some respect from the young people.”

Common themes arose during the design process, recurring symbols of importance to the young people of Fitzroy Crossing. The river – especially glimpsed from above before a jump from the bridge – holds a special place in many hearts, as does playing didgeridoo with the elders, wet season skies, boab trees in flower, and brolgas and hawks.

Claire wanted to create a peaceful space during the month-long construction of the mural, away from some of the entrenched social dysfunction of Fitzroy, including issues with over-crowding, alcohol and violence.

“If there’s something that’s going to change the world, it’s art” says Claire.

“[Painting] gives the kids a chance to sit down, take a deep breath, and relax into something. I am trying to find a place of calm for them. Any human that sits down and relaxes, that moment means a lot to them. If you then see that painting you created in that moment, you can tap into that feeling of calm again.”

Some of the kids – even relatives of Claire – avoid him in the street and fail to meet his eye. But during the construction of the mural kids came forward to reveal moments that were special to them – campfires by the river with the elders, or speaking in language on country.

“Capturing those scenes shows that our kids do care about their culture, and they do care about their elders, and that special image is sitting in the back of their mind, even if they don’t talk about it,” says Claire.

“That tells me that their heart is still there, and those elders are still their leaders.”

Painting our Dreams: Fitzroy Crossing mural inspires local youth

Claire hopes the mural will be the beginning of a slew of positive youth projects in Fitzroy Crossing, including a “youth hub” he would love to see get off the ground.

“It’s so important to give these kids a moment to stop and think and connect with the world for a moment,” he says.

“It is a mental thing and many of them have a lot of trauma and one way to work through that is to get them focused on something, even if it’s just sitting and quietly staring at the river.”

The nights of painting – filled with music, barbeques and creativity – are “something special” Claire will never forget. He just hopes it will help keep the younger generation in touch with, and living in, communities.

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