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Creative Kids| Precious Portraits

In conjunction with the exhibition, LAND, WATER SKY 19 April - 09 June 2018


Tuesday 29 May 3.45pm – 5.15pm

Wednesday 30 May 3.45pm – 5.15pm

FREE | Bookings essential, Places limited

03 5153 1988

East Gippsland Art Gallery Creative Kids program is proud to present a portraiture workshop for primary school aged children.


Inspired by the powerful portrait A Gunnai Elder – Mum Alice by Ray Thomas, this workshop will have participants explore and create self-portraits that include objects that hold special significance in their lives. These precious portraits will be exhibited in our Creative Kids Exhibition Space in the Gallery Entrance.

Land Water Sky is presented by East Gippsland Art Gallery in partnership with East Gippsland Shire Council, this show acknowledges the cultural contribution of Aboriginal people in this region. It recognises the importance of Reconciliation Week, 27 May – 3 June 2018 and theme Don’t Keep History a Mystery which invites Australians to Learn, Share, and Grow – by exploring our past, learning more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, and developing a deeper understanding of our national story.


2 Nicholson Street
Bairnsdale Victoria 3875
+61 03 5153 1988


Gallery hours:
Tuesday–Friday 10am–4pm
Saturday 10am–2pm
Sunday-Monday CLOSED

FREE Admission

A Gunnai Elder, Mum Alice by Ray Thomas

A Gunnai Elder – Mum Alice won Ray Thomas the $30,000 Deadly Art Award, the top prize in Victoria's Indigenous Art Awards in 2013. The painting is a tribute and a glimpse into the life the artist's mother, Alice, then 94, one of the oldest among Victoria's Gunnai people.

''Older people need to be recognised. I've thought about doing mum's portrait for years but never been able to fit it in,'' said Thomas, who generally has favoured landscape painting.

Through images scattered in the portrait, Thomas captures a story spanning almost a century - Alice's life, from her childhood in Gippsland to her adult years in Fitzroy.

''There's the traditional woven grass basket with fruit and vegies. Mum spent her early days on a farm in Lakes Entrance. They were self-sufficient. Mum's mother was apparently good with a rifle, she'd shoot rabbits for meat, then they'd just grab a few groceries from town.

''I wanted to incorporate that as it's going back 90 years. There's also a small black-and-white photo of her sitting on her mum's knee. If that's not at Lake Tyers mission it's probably at the farm. The half-caste policy of the day impacted on our family, so her parents were forced off the mission.''

The older people of the area would visit her grandparents' farm and have a corroboree, but already it was a world slipping away from Alice's grasp. ''The old people didn't teach mum and her cousins, which is sad because we're only talking the 1920s.''

The background of the painting recalls a Gippsland landscape; ''the mists in the forest and the scarred tree. The canoe was cut from the tree. On the lake there's an old Gunnai man standing in the canoe - it's how the old people traversed the lakes.''

'When Alice moved to Melbourne during the war years her family was one of the first in Gertrude Street in Fitzroy. A self-taught pianist, she played at community events and funerals, so keyboards have found their way into Thomas' painting.

Ray Thomas, A Gunnai Elder, Mum Alice. Oil on linen

Also, a little bird on the arm of a chair - a blue wren, or djeetgun, the female totem of the Gunnai women. Cloaked in possum skin, Alice strikes a proud figure, with a playful streak too. ''I remember walking into work a few weeks ago and that image kept coming into my mind,'' said Gordon Morrison, director of the Ballarat gallery and one of the awards judges. ''It's a very compelling portrait and it reveals absolute love and knowledge of the subject.''

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