reFRAMED in Indonesia

7 Aug

This project tells a local story with words, photos and symbols. The intergenerational work seeks to strengthen an understanding between all levels of the community. The Jatiwangi Art Factory (JAF), in Java, Indonesia,  has always been a strong force in community building. As an artist, JAF is a special place for me, because it allows me to work closely with many members of the community. As this is my third project there, I also feel that I have been able to build up a stronger personal understanding of the community.

To read and see more follow this link:


Everyone Has a Place: Positioning Aboriginal Kids in the World Through Storytelling

6 Aug

stories in my life

’Don’t panic. I’m with the Library!’

(Sighs of relief, smiles, even the odd cheer. Everything is going to be all right!)

I am not a social worker, a missionary, or a parole officer; I am employed by Kempsey Library to present an outreach storytime programme. The approach of the public library to improving the lives of Aboriginal children is one of service and empowerment, without authority. We are ‘agents inspirateur’ modeling, mentoring, resourcing and facilitatingthe needs of our patrons. Who are our patrons?All thosewho access our service, whether they walk through the door, are visited in their homes and centres or communicate through phone or internet. Across the country public libraries consistently come up as being the most used of all council services.

There are no hidden (or not so hidden) agendas with public libraries. The only thing we check out are items from our collection (i.e. books, CDs, DVDs…

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Letters to the Earth – Switzerland

27 Nov
Storytelling Arts are an inclusive and comprehensive way of exploring a range of topics in international school curriculums. In 2012 we visited the International School of Schaffhausen and La Garenne International Bilingual School in Villars-Sur-Ollon in Switzerland,  to present the Storytelling Based Arts Project, Letters to the Earth.

This project offered students an insight into the relationship between humans and the natural environment, through the presentation of oral literature from different cultures. Traditional stories and contemporary rhymes and songs addressed the interrelationship of all living things and the importance of Earth care.

Students were invited to express their feelings and thoughts about the Earth through writing a letter or drawing a picture to acknowledge what the Earth provides. As this was a personal expression, students were encouraged to write in the language of their choice. Older students were given the opportunity to read their letter to the class, and if written in their home language, they chose a translator.

They were then instructed on how to transform their letter into an origami envelope. After this they chose a stamp from a selection of world stamps to place on their letter. The letters were then collected and at one school hung as an installation and at the other placed in a large textile envelope.

Children from early years through to High School participated in this project and all successfully created a ‘Letter to the Earth’. Younger children explored the the life of plants and the weather, while the focus for older children was on sustainability, earth guardianship and ecosystems. Stories from a number of different countries traditions were told to illustrate the global importance of looking after the planet.


I AM A Butterfly, Thailand.

5 Oct

A textile sculpture that explores the visual and spiritual meaning of butterflies in Thailand.

In July/August 2012 Roman was an artist in residence at the ComPeung art space in Doi Saket, Thailand.
‘Finding the right material for my sculptural work is alway a challenge and often I am happy to let the material find me.  This also has a a practical aspect, as I also rely on participants to supply their own material.  The resulting work usually reflects the cultural environment that I am working in, so finding a monk’s robe to make a butterfly was perfect.  There is also a strong spiritual connection to butterflies in many cultures.  In Thailand the word for butterfly translates as ‘ghost shirt.’ Given the nature of the butterfly as a quiet, colourful and often translucent creature that goes through a radical transformation from a grub to a flying creature, it is no wonder that supernatural attributions have been associated with this wonderful being.’


An excerpt from the Thailand diary …. read more here: 

‘Love Letters To Trees’ at the Yew Chung International School in Qingdao, China.

24 Apr

Roman, Moriah and I have just had the privilege of presenting ‘Love Letters to Trees’ at the Yew Chung International School in Qingdao, China, to celebrate Earth Day and Environment Week. What a joyous experience of children’s creativity and compassion. Here is the  talk I gave at the concluding concerts with accompanying pictures of the sculptures from Qingdao and Huangdao campuses.

Long before any of us were born, trees were venerated throughout the world in stories and rituals. In Ancient Greece the story was told of the mythical King Ceecrops who wanted to name the capital city after whichever God or Goddess gave the best gift to it’s people. Poseidon, the God of the oceans, struck his trident into a hill overlooking the Aegean sea. Out gushed a torrent of salty water. Wave after wave rolled out and galloping on the foaming crest the first horse appeared. This powerful steed symbolised war and the people, in fear, shrunk away from it. Then Athene, the Goddess of wisdom, brought forth an olive tree and planted it on the rocky cliff now known as the Acropolis. The Olive tree was a useful gift, giving fruit for food and oil that could be used for perfume, light, heat and medicine. The people declared Athene the winner and King Ceecrops made her the Patron of the city, naming it Athens after her. It was said that all of Greece’s olive trees descended from the tree in the story and they were considered sacred in Greece.

In the Christian religion the olive was a symbol of peace. This derives from the Old Testament and the story of the Great Flood, where Noah released a dove in order to find land and it returned with an olive branch in its beak, signifying an end to the anger of God against humankind.

In Nepal, 2,500 years ago, Prince Siddhartha Gautama went in search of the answer to why there was suffering in the world. For six years he walked and walked until he finally came to rest under a Bodhi tree and here he begun to meditate. After a long time truth came to him and he was filled with a great peacefulness. He experienced a release from all the things that were troubling him. He had become enlightened and became known as The Buddha, the enlightened one.

In the 1970’s in Kenya trees were continuing to change the lives of whole civilizatons. Wangaari Matthai had just received her science doctorate and was active in supporting her husband’s election to parliament. She listened to his prospective constituents voice their concerns, particularly the women. There were no jobs, the women had to walk long distances for firewood and water, people were poor and children were suffering from malnutrition.

Wangaari Matthai recognized  that these were all symptoms of deforestation and environmental degradation and that they could all be addressed with tree planting projects.Trees could prevent soil erosion, protect water sources, provide fuel and building materials, and fruit trees could give food and fodder.  Planting the trees would also provide jobs and an income.

Over the next thirty-four years she was instrumental in mobilising thousands of people in Africa and around the world in a campaign to plant millions of trees. The United Nations named 2011 The International Year of Forests, and in that year Wangaari Matthai died, but not before she had received the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in forming the Green Belt Movement.

Wangaari Matthai made the connection between good government and environmental degradation. She said that the state of any country’s environment is a reflection of the kind of governance in place and without good governance there can be no peace.

In the 1970’s in China deforestation was happening on a massive scale as trees were cut down to build cities and plant crops. What Wangaari Matthai described as the desertification of Africa was also happening in China. In the 1980’s the Chinese government set about remedying the devastation of the previous decade and in 1981 began a tree planting programme. Over the next thirty years China planted 61.4 billion trees; that’s 2 trees per person per year.

However many of the trees are not seedlings that will take decades to grow. Huge plantations have been grown and mature trees are greening China’s cities. March is tree planting month in China and farmers are employed in cities and rural areas alike to plant trees. President Hu Jintao sees the tree planting campaign throughout China as a means of coping with climate change, improving ecological environment and achieving greener growth.

When we look at the trees, they are all held up with wooden structures to support them. As the trees give support to us, we must support them. It is this symbiotic relationship that is reflected in the construction of the tree sculptures

The children listened to folktales about trees from various countries and were then asked to express their thoughts and emotions in words and/or pictures on a leaf. The leaves were then hung on the tree. The leaves were ‘love letters’ expressing gratitude, understanding and appreciation of trees. Like a tree, each leaf was unique and yet all the leaves collectively formed the tree sculpture.

Overwhelmingly the leaves express love. Exploring the children’s tree sculptures is both a moving testament to their compassion and also offers hope for a sustainably green future for our planet.

I Am the Flag at Okpo International School, South Korea

1 Apr
A successful final presentation of all the I AM flags made at the Okpo International School in South Korea.  Pictured is a student explaining the meaning of his choices of symbols and design.

I AM The Flag, at Okpo International School, South Korea

29 Mar


A student from the Okpo International School, South Korea, explains to his classmates the meaning of the symbols, colours and pictures on his flag. Tomorrow we will create the display with all of the flags created during our storytelling and art residency.