Gawguun and Birrigun – RESURRECTION by Richard Campbell.
In talking* of his paintings aboriginal artist, RICHARD CAMPBELL, said:
“We all have a spiritual connection, we’re all brothers and sisters, with the animals, the trees, rivers and rocks, we all belong to one big God – call it Christ, we call it Birrigun, we are all one in God.” He said: “… that although you are from different nations of the world, it is important to recognise Christ and the connection between Aboriginal spirituality and bible stories.’
The use of the colour blue denotes the sky where the birds are and the water. The dots and die hands in the painting represent the elders and (the Holy Spirit). The journey symbol in the tree trunk denotes how the elders are buried in the roots of the tree and their spirit rises up through the branches. It also signifies Richard’s journey with the Holy Spirit.
The tree is the Murribi tree, for the Gumbayngirr people, all things happened around dial tree. The dead were buried in the tree and the people believed that their spirits of the elders rise through the tree through the brunches and go out into the Dreaming.
When Birrigun died he went into spirit and then into the Dreaming and after his resurrection through the Murribi tree he appeared to his people as the Southern Cross, that is the journey of Birrigun. in Gumbayngirr his name means the southern cross, he was the champion for the Gumbaingirr people like Jesus is to Christians.
When Birrigun’s mother – Gawguun buried him in a Murribi tree it was scaled with a rock so (hat no aminals could get into the burial site. Every year at the same time she would visit the site to mourn him (this is at Arakoon at South West Rocks. NSW, Australia) but one year the elders noticed she did not come. Instead they saw a brolga dancing around the tomb and they believed it was her spirit. Her tears for her son fall into the coolamon which is the feminine symbol because it is the vessel of life, carrying water, food and babies. It is painted with markings just the way that Richard’s father taught him when he was a boy.
“ It is important to let people around the world know that there was a religion of spirituality in Australia before we were colonised by white people.” These paintings “show the way Aboriginal people lived – by the law of the land. You’ve got to look after everything; humans, animals, the environment and the land….”(They) show the message of Christ himself: of good will.”
The description of this artwork and aboriginal story comes directly from Australian Catholic Ministries, Lismore 2008 archive.
Richard Campbell was born into the Dhungutti tribe, near Bowraville on the North Coast of NSW, in 1956. For more information on the artist visit ACM Sydney website.
*Adapted from extract of editorial produced by Elise Dalley from PROJECTeye interviewing the artist.
These images(commissioned for Sydney World Youth Day, 2008), are the property of Aboriginal Catholic Ministries, Sydney. The copyright of these images is retained by the artist and this article is presented under Creative Commons provisions to respect and affirm the work of the artist and his intentions in a particular context.