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Artist Paul Bong visits the Museum

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Artist Paul Bong visits the Museum

27 Aug 2014

A man painting on a large canvas.
Paul Bong (Bindur Bullin) handcolouring his etching My Flag. Photo: Canopy Art Centre, Cairns.

By Jay Arthur

Aboriginal artist and printmaker, Paul Bong, a Yidinyji man from the Babinda-Gordonvale region south of Cairns, recently braved one of Canberra's coldest days to meet with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program curators, Barbara Paulson, David Kaus and Jay Arthur at the National Museum.

Paul, whose tribal name is Bindur Bullin, was undertaking a two-week residency at the Ainslie and Gorman House Arts Centres in Canberra as part of its Visiting Artist Program.

Best-known for the way he incorporates traditional Yidinji designs into his work, Paul Bong says that his art, based on totemic designs which have deep spiritual meaning, is inspired by stories and legends about the rainforest, told to him by his Yidinyji-speaking grandmother.

In 1995, after completing an Associate Diploma of Visual Arts, Paul was commissioned to produce a collection of painted shields for display at Brisbane's international airport. Carved from native fig by his uncle Stewart Bong, Paul's hand-painted shields are one of the first images seen today by international visitors entering Australia through Brisbane's International Airport terminal.

In an interview with Jay Arthur, Paul Bong explained the underlying thread which runs through his artworks: 'My ancestors defended our country and our people with these shields. I defend my culture today with my shields – in art.'

Five people stand in an office smiling for the photo.
Cairns-based Yidinyji artist and printmaker Paul Bong in Canberra sharing stories with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program staff members Cinnamon van Reyk, David Kaus, Barbara Paulson and Jeff Theys. Photo: Judith Hickson.
A man and woman discussing the contents of a computer screen
Paul Bong shares some of his extensive knowledge of North Queensland rainforest shields with Museum curator Jay Arthur. Photo: Judith Hickson.
A painted elliptical shield
This painted elliptical shield by Paul Bong is part of the National Museum’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Art (ATSIAA) collection.
A man holding a painted elliptical shield.
During his visit, Barbara Paulson took Paul to see the Museum’s Open Collections. Here Paul is seen holding an elliptical rainforest shield with a pigmented geometrical design. The shield was collected near Barron Falls in North Queensland by amateur ethnographer and philanthropist Edmund Milne in the early 1900s. Photo: Barbara Paulson.

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