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'Joy in the Struggle', a collaborative piece by Arlie (11), Monique (11 ) and Moriah (10 ).

Fireflies Art Exhibition

The Fireflies Project – Art exhibition

18th – 29th January 2021

In the Fountain Gallery, Parliament House, Sydney

Paintings by Towamba Children

This exhibition is an expression from the heart by the children of Towamba, inspired by their experience after the bushfires.  Naming this project The Fireflies Project is significant as fireflies indicate the presence of powerful spirit beings in many indigenous cultures. Fireflies transform energy into flashes of light. Light is often synonymous with Life and Love – the perfect description of the children of Towamba.

Towamba is a small community, in the Bega Valley Shire. It is located about forty minutes’ drive west of Eden. At the 2016 census, Towamba had a population of 234 people. This small community has had a public school since 1862 located in Towamba Street.

In January 2020, the entire Far South Coast of NSW was under threat from the unprecedented bushfire emergency that had run the entire east coast of the state.

After the emergency, when the Towamba township had been saved by local RFS crews, students from the Towamba Public School under the guidance of local artist Vicki McCredie embarked on an art making project that evolved into the Fireflies project. Vickie says:

“In the Christmas holidays 2019-2020 we had already planned to have art days. We had one before Christmas. Then there were the fires. Our Towamba kids made a thank you sign for those who were protecting us from the fires. Then we made another painting, one that has now become the first Fireflies painting.

The paintings that now make up The Fireflies Collection evolved from our prior passion to paint and create and express ourselves. The project has unfolded organically. There were many disruptions to school. Kids came to my shed on many occasions where we took on the role of ‘educating others’ about what had happened here through the fires. Some of the older kids took their own photographs, others chose images that could tell the story for them.

It is a privilege to play with these young artists. What is expressed through each person’s heart is mediated into the images that you see. It is that same heart that we receive as the viewer. These paintings vibrate with unconditional love. That is why we are mesmerised by them.

A video of their story is at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrL5o85JKUI 

Their paintings can be seen at:

https://gallery.begavalley.nsw.gov.au/cp_themes/default/page.asp?p=DOC-BJX-78-53-34

Here is Vickie’s personal account of how the project began:

“This is about the creative outpouring of unconditional LOVE from the children of Towamba School, Term 1, 2020.

The fires of December 2019 and the first months of 2020 saw much of the East Coast of Australia aflame. I was in Sydney at the time and 12th January was the earliest moment I could return to Towamba I drove down the coast and saw the devastation of the fires.

Along the way, signs, painted on old tin or boards, thanked the fire brigades and volunteers for saving so much, when much more could have been destroyed.

It was only possible to come into Towamba from the north as the Towamba Road was impassable. Many had lost homes along the Snake Track but at this stage, remarkably, Towamba was still intact. Many people are responsible for this miracle. One of them is Nature herself, providing a wind change at a critical moment.

Many families had returned to Towamba. The children and I had planned “art days” in my shed during the holidays, but of course this hadn’t happened. On 2nd February I phoned Kokoda and Hadassah Mitchell and asked them if they’d like to come and make a thank you sign for OUR fire brigade, forestry and parks people. With a resounding YES, we created the basic wording for a sign that we loaded onto the back of my ute and drove around to all the kids we knew were home.

The story of how the rest of the 61 paintings came together is a little complicated so I hope you can follow the sequence of events!

As we drove around with the Thank You sign it was clear that everyone was excited to see each other. Getting together was important, so…. On Thursday 6th February 2020 with school unable to open, I asked Monique Sosa, Moriah Nelson and Arlie Richardson for a painting day. They were excited as they hadn’t seen each other for six weeks. The girls also chose to rummage around in the bush and take photos along the Towamba Road. With plenty of firsthand images, these three girls completed the 1500 x 900mm canvas in five hours. With excitement we sent the image to Nicci Grant who teaches at Towamba School.

After some discussion, Nicci suggested it would be great if all the kids could do a canvas painting. We immediately purchased many more canvasses. Nicci applied for a Grant.

The naming of the grant The Fireflies was significant as fireflies indicate the presence of powerful spirit beings in many indigenous cultures. Fireflies transform energy into flashes of light. Light is often synonymous with Life and Love – the perfect description of the children of Towamba.

School was intermittently closed for three weeks. One of those days when I was on my way to take photos along the Towamba Road, I saw Hadassah and Kokoda. They were allowed to come with me to take photos!

We turned at the Snake Track and stopped many places to take photographs, video and explore. I had printed many photos and when we decided to do our painting the girls chose– The Bend Near the Snake Track. For this painting, we asked Oliver and Lindsay How to join us. This was really the FIRST of the Fireflies works, even though it was painted after “The Joy in The Struggle”.

About Judy

Hi, I'm one of a group of authors and editors for the Sydney Goodwill website.

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2 comments

  1. Thank you so much Judy.

    • Wonderful to see the heart of these children leading the way to a kinder more caring world.
      Thanks for all you do to make it possible for them, dear Vickie.

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