Our featured image above shows Leanne Tobin’s 2009 work Nurragingy and Colebee. The significant event which led to the name of Blacktown is one of momentous importance in the history of Australia: the first land grant ever given to Aboriginal people. At the heart of the Black(s) Town story stand Nurragingy and Colebee, highly regarded at the time by both the Aboriginal and European communities. Their motives were to bring a just and peaceful resolution to the years of conflict that marred the progress of white settlement. In Leanne Tobin’s diptych painting, Colebee and Nurragingy are seen enclosed in their land grants. They were expected to plough and grow the newly introduced crops of food and become farmers.
Leanne is descended from the Boorooberongal and Wumali clans of the Darug, the traditional Aboriginal people of the Greater Sydney region, who, along with the Gundungurra peoples, are the traditional owners of the land on which the City of Blue Mountains stands.
She joins us as a Patron of the Wild Mountain Collective and will guide us in our commitment to learn from the 60,000+ cultural traditions of First Nations Peoples in our effort to develop an attitude to one another and the natural environment that is encapsulated in the Aboriginal idea of ‘caring for country’.
Here Leanne, as one of the judges of the Blake Prize, is standing in front of Kenosis 2015, by Indian artist Yardena Kurulkar—a series of the decaying 3D prints of her heart in terracotta clay.
Leanne has pursued a career as an educator and artist, beginning with the Northern Territory Teaching Service and TAFE. This was followed by a period as an Aboriginal Research Officer and Lecturer in Aboriginal Studies at Western Sydney University, and the development of a Teacher Resource Kit of Aboriginal Stories with animation for Macquarie University and further appointments with TAFE and independent schools.
At the same time, Leanne continued to develop and pursue her life as an artist, embedded in community, collecting art prizes, running workshops, and supporting Aboriginal women in custody with art therapy workshops.
Her work seeks to connect the observer with the land they stand on, highlighting their shared role in caring for country while also conveying the intrinsic spiritual connection Aboriginal people have with the land; a connection that is often hidden beneath the concrete and tar of the city and suburbs.
“My art practice provides a vehicle for storytelling: about people and place. I am motivated by a strong sense of ‘truth-telling’ about what happened here on Darug land. I owe it to my Ancestors; those before me who were silenced and denied opportunities to speak their truth, to speak out and bring the hidden stories of this place to light”.
The Healing Power of Art
Among many achievements, her works include:
- ‘Nature through Fresh Eyes’, an art and cultural workshop and interpretive walks around Lawson, Blue Mountains
- A contemporary theatre work as Artist in Residence at Blacktown Art Centre
- Winner of the 2011 NSW Parliament House Indigenous Art Prize with ‘Defending Country’
- Works in the ‘Naa Nora’ exhibition at Blackheath National Park’s Conservation Hut
- Participating artist with ‘Bungaree The First Australian’ Exhibition with curator Djon Mundine, for Mosman Council, NSW
- “Burra Yanada’, a public art mosaic collaboration with Peter Day for Parramatta City Council
- Artist in Residence, Blacktown Art Centre
- winner of the Maria Lock Acquisitive Award, Mil-Pra Art Exhibition, Casula Powerhouse.
Working collaboratively with local schools, institutions and community groups, Leanne aims to encourage an open and honest dialogue about the past and to nurture respect and care for Country, paying homage to our Old People and their legacy.