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The Story Behind Jeffrey Samuels’ Captivating Artwork at ICC Sydney

10 Jul 2019

This week marks the observance of NAIDOC Week (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee).

It is a time to reflect on and reaffirm our commitment to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Australia’s First Nations people, including the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation – the custodians of the land on which ICC Sydney is located.

A venue of our scale with many community connection points is in a unique position to create opportunities to increase understanding and appreciation of First Nations cultures, which have helped shape the voice of our country for more than 65,000 years.

This NAIDOC Week, we’d like to take the opportunity to share the story of Jeffrey Samuels, renowned Aboriginal artist and founding co-member of Boomalli Aboriginal Artists’ Cooperative.

ICC Sydney first met Jeffrey in early 2018 at the Boomalli gallery, where he was commissioned to create an artwork to signify to our visitors that they are on Gadigal land.

Titled Gadigal, Acknowledgement Respect, Samuels’ work tells the story of how Australia’s First Nations People are connected to Sydney Harbour. It depicts various flora, shells and animals of significance around the harbour foreshore including the whale, a totem of the Gadigal clan. Elements of the work are displayed prominently across main entry points of ICC Sydney.

With a focus this NAIDOC Week on languages, we’d like to encourage you to practice a Gadigal welcome by saying bujari gamarruwa, which means ‘good day’ or ‘welcome’.

In his art practice, Samuels seeks to affirm his Aboriginal identity and cultural heritage and describes himself as a painter, illustrator, designer, mixed media artist and printmaker.

He is a Stolen Generation survivor and grew up without any knowledge of where he came from or who his biological parents were, after being removed from them in 1959 by the Australian Government.

Originally hailing from Barkindji country in Bourke in far west New South Wales (NSW), he grew up on a sheep property in the north west of the state and has been drawing and painting since he was five years old.

His passion led him to Sydney where he was granted an Aboriginal educational scholarship to study art in 1973, attending the National Art School at East Sydney Technical College, before he was a student of Alexander Mackie College of Advanced Education where he was awarded a Diploma in Fine Art in 1978.

He has actively participated in the Aboriginal and broader contemporary Australian art scenes for more than 30 years and is highly regarded for his achievements and commitment to the urban Aboriginal artists’ movement in Australia.

His work is held in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Flinders University, Cambridge University, the Australian Museum Sydney and in the National Museum of Australia.

Many are not aware that he also created a painting for the Nature Segment of the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and that he designed the NSW state logo depicting a waratah.

We are exceptionally proud to have had the opportunity to work with Samuels and provide a platform to share his art and story in a bid to better recognise First Nations heritage, culture and people.

Next time you are visiting ICC Sydney, take a moment to stop and admire his captivating work. If you’d like to read more about the implementation of our Reconciliation Action Plan and be a part of the journey to build a more reconciled Australia, you can find out more here or ask one of our friendly team members.