Much more than words

TYRONE Sheather is a Bellingen lad keeping up his culture. He comes from a long line of indigenous story-tellers, but where once his ancestors told stories through songs and other traditional methods, Tyrone includes contemporary mediums such as film, light, and interactive technology.

His modern approach has been acknowledged and rewarded after he received the Dreaming Award at the Australian Council’s National Indigenous Arts Awards night. The $20,000 prize is given to a young artist to create a major body of work.

Speaking at the presentation night, Tyrone said his connection with his Indigenous roots began in high school. It was while researching a school project that he came across his great grandfather telling stories in Gumbaynggir that inspired him to continue the family tradition.

“The line of my family has been of story-teller,” Tyrone said.

“It seems like it’s a continued practice. My great grandfather and the ones before him, too.”

Tyrone is best known locally for his first 10-minute film, Wijirrjagim, which won the Best Short and People’s Choice at the Local Clapper Film Festival. The film remains a tool for teaching language at the Muurrbay Language Centre.

While Tyrone has gone on to produce more films, he also held a photographic exhibition in Bellingen called Dreaming Aloud.

His latest award win is arguably the most significant.

Australian Council board director Lee-Ann Buckskin explained why Tyrone’s work was so important and why the $20,000 prize will help.

“Language is the core of culture, so it was inspiring to see someone of his generation incorporating language within his art,” Lee-Ann said.

 “Tyrone’s project will be GIIDANYBA – glowing, interactive humanoid sculptures, emitting sound and two metres tall, which symbolise the knowledge keepers of the old world.”

Tyrone’s creative journey is fuelled by his desire to see his Indigenous language as part and parcel of everyday life: “where someone in your family might just talk the language, and you learn it growing up rather than having to go to a class or learn it making film”.

“But something has to happen for it to get to that – and we’re not at that that spot yet. It’s incredibly important to identify – if we don’t have language, we don’t have culture.”