Keeping Culture Strong, with the Strength of a Crocodile

teho2Life is moving fast for Injinoo born and bred artist, Teho Ropeyarn. With his first solo print exhibition launched last month, Teho takes time from the current Pathways workshop to talk about how to keep culture strong in an ever changing world and his new role as UMI Arts Gallery Curator.

“Indigenous artwork is a part of this country, a part of this land and of the first people of this land,” Teho said. With ties to Angkamuthi and Yadhaykana clans from Injinoo, Badu, Moa and Murray Island on his Father’s side and Woppaburra people and Batchulla people on his Mother’s side, Teho believes he must strive to continue his culture, sharing the stories of his ancestors and teachings of elders. 

His exhibition, Mandang Ikamba  (meaning Strength Of A Crocodile), was a collection of lino and vinyl carved works reflecting Injinoo culture, dedicated to Injinoo Elders past and Present. Teho said he see’s his work as a way for him to preserve culture and stories told to him while growing up.

“Lifestyles are changing, society is changing, but [art] is a way that even through these changes we can practice culture and keep it strong. We know these stories because of  our elders, past and those we work with now– that’s something really special.” 

Mandang Ikamba

Mandang Ikamba (detail), 2012. Images kindly provided by Teho Ropeyarn

“All indigenous artwork is different, each region have their own language, culture, stories and art style,” Teho said, “it’s great to be able to travel to country to work with emerging artists and learn about their style. It’s such an  important step in promoting emerging artists, we help them understand all the business side of exhibitions and galleries.”

Teho now moves onto his new role with UMI, as Gallery Curator, continuing to promote culture and support indigenous communities through managing exhibitions for known and emerging indigenous artists. He has recently designed an exhibition to run alongside this year’s CIAF, called Freshwater Saltwater. The exhibition was designed to be held as an annual event, allowing emerging artists to have their work exhibited during CIAF, arguably the biggest annual celebration of Indigenous Art and Culture in Cairns.

“[UMI Arts] members wanted to do more shows, but we just didn’t have the space,” Teho explained. With recent rennovations, UMI Arts Gallery now have extra space and the oppertunity to showcase Indigenous Artwork from established and emerging artists across Cape York.

NPA Artists who completed the Exhibition Ready program held in 2012 were invited to submit their work as UMI Arts Alumni Artists, further extending the reach of their exhibitioned work.