Glennys Briggs – Great Grandmothers Stories, 2016
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Great Grandmother’s Stories
Glennys Briggs is a First Nation visual artist, a Tungarung/Yorta Yorta woman, an educator of Indigenous culture past and present. Briggs tells personal histories and the ones that have been passed on and those that have been researched.
The cultural influences in Briggs work reflect the strong connection to her cultural histories, her people and this land. Like a time-lapse photograph, Briggs work is ever changing to reveal a long history. Each scene sits upon the other like the layers of a midden, each revealing more of the story.
Many of the histories are very difficult to tell and cannot be glossed over and beautified. Briggs attempts to present the re-visioning of these difficult histories through these prints in a way that will invite the viewer to engage with the stories and ask questions.
The stories that you see have been handed down from the artist’s great grandmother to grandmother and to the artist’s mother. The stories within have given insight to cultural and family histories, which are part of the landscape of traditional country, woven like a tapestry with threads of lineage and cultural connectedness. There are stories of family, dreamtime stories and cultural history stories that are yet to be told. They weave an unbreakable bond that is tied strongly to the artist.
My name’s Glennys Briggs, I’m a Yorta Yorta/Taungwurrung woman from Victoria. For this project, for my pieces I’ve called [them], Great Grandmother’s Stories. Because I’ve been handed down stories from my grandmother, and my mother in regards to my great grandmother, and the relatives around her, it has left me with such a passion to tell these stories and pass on the histories. Because there are stories that are hidden and can be quite dark. But these stories need to be told and I keep telling them.
I grew up on an Aboriginal reserve called Cummeragunja, that’s my father’s land, is the Yorta Yorta land, and it was along the banks of the Murray River, on the boarder of Victoria and New South Wales, about 50kms from Echuca. I grew up from a young girl until I was fourteen and lived on that Aboriginal reserve. I left there at fourteen and went to a high-school. It was a very scary change because I went from being secluded with my own people, and my own family, to a strange school where I had to travel on a bus. Then go to school in this huge school with so many students and so many new people. It was a real culture shock for me.
There’s a lot of stories that I haven’t yet written or haven’t yet printed or painted. One story that my mother told me: when she was a little girl, she used to travel around with all her siblings in a wagon with my grandmother and my grandfather. My grandfather, he used to work on fences or shearing or whatever you could do. But then they used to keep on the move because my grandfather, his father was Irish and he was fair skinned, and some of the children were fair skinned. I mean, I’m not real dark. There was always this fear that the children would be taken if authorities sort of caught up with them. So they kept on the move a lot.
As the children got older my great grandmother said that Nana should bring the children home, and she was on the Aboriginal reserve at the time. So she went back there but my grandfather wasn’t allowed because his skin was too fair. She had to live without her father and the only chance that she got to see him was when grandmother had permission to go off the Cummeragunja Aboriginal reserve to see my grandfather.
There are lots of stories that nobody knows what has happened and I’d like to tell those stories too. A lot of my art reflects my connection to my family. Not just my immediate family, but my extended family, and my family who have passed on.
The dilly bag, to me is a symbol of, is the holder of, our cultural stories and histories. So the dilly bag symbolises that. It can also, it can be the holder of sacred knowledge. Where my great grandmother had like a medicine bag, [it] wasn’t something she would tell stories about because it was sacred to her and about her healing. So the dilly bag is the symbol of the holder of our stories.
Actually I’ve used lots of techniques. I’ve painted it, used it in different paintings, and in different print makings. So there are lots of different ways I’ve used the image and used different techniques to present it.
As an indigenous artist, I’m also an educator. And I’m telling my stories, this is what my art’s all about. To tell the stories so that dilly bag, that symbol of the holder of stories is very important to me. There are so many stories left to tell, that bag is just bursting at the seams.
To continue the tour and view the next artwork by Ryan Presley, select the ‘Map’ button on the bottom right and walk to the next artwork at Site 5 – Themesong. As you get within 50ms of the artwork the app will automatically unlock the next page. Keep walking until you are standing over the red pin and can see the banner high up on the wall.