Gregg Dreise Presents

It was a wonderfully dynamic, interactive, educational and personal guest presentation by Gregg Dreise, an award winning illustrator and writer of books like Silly Birds and Mad Magpie, at the recent Book Links AGM at the State Library of Queensland.

Gregg is a descendant of the Kamilaroi tribe, from south-west Queensland and north-west New South Wales. You can find out more about him on the Speakers Ink site.

Gregg  began by honouring the Indigenous people of the local area we were  meeting in, and then gave the audience a sample of what he does when goes on his various visits into the community, but especially into schools.This gave us a chance to learn some of his language and sing it, and do the accompanying actions just as the students would.

Then he used a number of images to structure his talk around the memories of his upbringing, including one of his mum as a little girl, which he gave a a thought provoking back story to.  I’m not going to fully detail that here, as I think that will be something Gregg may one day do himself if he ever writes a memoir or maybe if he is busy one of his family might do this.  If you attend one of his presentations you will hear it directly from him as well.

Gregg  gave some critique of the notion of ‘blackness’ and Indigenous identity as well how little diversity appears in Australian children’s books, in libraries, publishing and schools. 

This observation was used to spring board into suggestions of how illustrators might consider including more diverse characters in their picture books.

However, it was suggested not to do this in a tokenistic way, or with stereotyping, but in a naturally inclusive way. 

Later on this point was discussed further by the authors in attendance of the AGM.  As authors shared with Gregg that they have little control over the work of illustrators if they are not author/illustrators.  He suggested that authors could at least make a note about wanting diversity in the illustrations of their book.

Gregg said, non-Indigenous could still include Indigenous characters, but should ensure they do their research and be accurate in those portrayals.  If there is an opportunity to include, do it! But just do the research.

He said often, however, there are picture book stories  that require very little change of the writing to embrace an inclusive society, rather a subtle change in illustration where the main character could be Indigenous instead of Anglo Australian, or in a wheelchair instead of walking is what makes the difference.  He gave us a specific example, which he had gained permission from the author to do so, to show how simple the task of inclusivity can be.

He did not advocate however taking on traditional stories, and explained that authors who truly want to support Indigenous people should instead empower an Indigenous person to tell and illustrate that story.

At times it might be relevant to consult Elders when undertaking a project, but the writer should be open to the answer being no, or yes and not try to railroad communities into assisting them with their research or books.

Mentoring is a rewarding experience, and can not only be taken on board as best practice when wanting to support Indigenous people, but can and should be acknowledged.  This is also work he himself does for regional and remote students especially.  Equally if writers receive assistance in research or from Elders they should acknowledge it.

On a positive note Gregg observed that in film and television there are great advances in diversity and the positive deconstruction of ‘blackness’ with films like Black Panther and also Star Wars.

He shared that Indigenous authors and illustrators should avoid stereotyping their own communities, and showed us an illustration where he represented the different skin shades of Indigenous Australia today.  Sometimes ‘blackness’ is taken as a sign of Indigenous authenticity, when it is not the major indication in contemporary society.

Another very heartening aspect of Gregg’s presentation was sharing the story of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and his work mentoring young Indigenous writers and illustrators.

So far we have gifted more than 260,000 new books to over 250 remote Indigenous communities where books are scarce.
Working with more than 30 generous publishers, we gift culturally relevant books to schools, libraries, playgroups, women’s centres, youth centres and other service organisations.
We have books available for babies through to adults, 40 per cent created by Indigenous authors and illustrators, with a new catalogue released each year. 

He is hosting a group  of talented Indigenous creatives in Sydney soon and taking them to Google and Hachette so they can aspire to become writers, illustrators and more.  It’s all about the doors that writing and books can open and broadening the horizons for Australia’s Indigenous people.  This work is made possible through a bequest from Pamela Lofts.

He showed us an example of a beautiful book co-produced with a school, which exemplified the kind of work possible.

I was very blessed to have a fantastic earlier discussion session with Dimity Powell and Gregg where we discussed the potential of  picture books and poetry to contribute to social justice and unity in diversity in the Australian literary community and how we might advance that happening.

June Perkins, Dimity Powell and Gregg Dreise

It was a highly uplifting and inspiring conversation for all three of us, and  we will be continuing our conversations as like minded, but very diverse background humans.

There were of course many more things shared during the presentation and this day, so this blog is only highlights that particularly struck me.

Book Links will  be sharing a blog of the day with several comments from participants in the AGM.  I will add the link to this post when it goes up.

All the best,

June Perkins

Responding to Art with the Written Word

Ray Crooke, Fragment Woman with Blossoms, QAGOMA, Australian Collection

I have made significant progress on a poetry project, writing poems for The Words and Pictures  project at QAGOMA.

Which is just as well as there are just four days left for my final selections and edits.

Some of the works  have  inspired more than one poem.  One even inspired four pieces.

I now have to select which ones will be the most interesting or evocative for the people visiting the gallery.  I might share some of the others that don’t go in, here on my blog.

It is not easy as I am quite happy with each version, but then I have a vision of how all the works fit together and want them to be spaced throughout the gallery which will help guide me to the right ones for the series.

Also one of my goals is to  give the poems and micro stories a broad appeal, such that people of many ages might enjoy reading them, including people familiar with my work on Magic Fish Dreaming.

So now my role is to curate the right balance of my own work, to show that I love writing for children, families, youth and adults.

I look forward to seeing how the public respond to the writing once it is up on the Gallery Walls.

I have a few butterflies of course, but it is quite exciting to share poems alongside art works, and have them interact with each other.

If you visit, feel free to leave a comment on my blog and QAGOMA instagram (will let you know some hashtags) as I would love to know what you think.

I’ll let you know the dates it is up soon.

All art works featured courtesy Queensland Art Gallery, Australian Art Collection

Rosalie Gascoigne,  Lamplit,

 

From Fred Williams's, Fragment from Echucha Landscape
From Fred Williams’s, Fragment from Echucha Landscape

 

 

 

‘Paper Boats’ by June Perkins

Australian Children's Poetry

Paper boats conjure dreams

of petals soaked by

scents of the

ocean.

Traveling boats

float in shadows

people

who have a simple hope

for happy lands,

but white markers sink

in sandy earth

marking graves of people

who cannot resist new germs.

‘Once watched paper boats,’

paternal grandfather says

in Vietnamese

but nobody understands

No translators here.

So shadow puppets dance

for petals

falling from kumquat boughs.

(c) June Perkins

https://ripplepoetry.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/paperboat.jpg

Creative Commons Flickr Geson Ratnow

View original post

Towards Spaces Beyond

Ripple Poetry

Butterflies on the wall, a new creation by artists
calls the People of this city to turn towards
the spaces beyond

“Darkness hath encompassed every land, O my God, and caused most of Thy servants to tremble. I beseech Thee, by Thy Most Great Name, to raise in every city a new creation that shall turn towards Thee, and shall remember Thee amidst Thy servants…”
-Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations

(c) poetry words and image June Perkins.  This first appeared on Nineteen Months

View original post