The stories behind the art: Luwana Spratt


Karlie Brady


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Artist Luwana Spratt holding her artwork in progress; The Knowledge Keeper, Ceramic plate with sgraffito, 2019. Background artwork from Karen Shuan. Image: Karlie Brady.

The Douglas Shire sits on Kuku Yalanji land, filled with a deep history and culture and for the Kuku Yalanji people, traditional aboriginal art is an essential way to pass down this ancient cultural knowledge.

As Newsport continues to follow the stories behind the art of local artists from Bamanga Bubu Ngadimunku (BBN) Aboriginal Corporation's, Yalanji Arts, located at the Mossman Gorge Community, we feature a young artist who is learning the tricks of the trade.

Luwana Spratt is a Kuku Yalanji artist who picked up a brush after learning the traditional art form from her aunty and uncle at a young age.

Last year she discovered Yalanji Arts and enjoyed painting there so much she took on an administration job at the centre.

While painting on canvas is her favourite style of art, Ms Spratt said she likes to work with many types of mediums and currently she is working with ceramics.

The piece she is holding in the picture is a ceramic called the Knowledge Keeper and it depicts an image of a woman.

“She's important in my culture, she is the chief's wife and she holds the knowledge of our culture,” Ms Spratt said.

The clan chief passes the knowledge of his people and their ways onto his wife; it is her role by lore to carry on this cultural knowledge so it may continue in the future.

Ms Spratt said that through her art she often shares the stories that she grew up with.

“I like to pass on the knowledge and skills that I've learnt in life and talk about how my culture works.”

She added she also likes to spark conversation through her art, particularly on current issues.

“I'm into climate change and things like that, so if I wanted to talk about climate change I would paint that.”

For Ms Spratt visiting and working at Yananji Arts has expanded her artistic capabilities and taught her valuable skills.

“I learn each time I come here, I work with Elders and people who have been in the art industry for many years and I learn from them.

“Sometimes what I'm painting just comes to me naturally as I work, other times I have to think about what I do, it depends but usually we have themes that we work on here,” she said.

Through Yalanji Arts, Ms Spratt recently displayed her work at the Douglas Shire Council Administration building as part of a NAIDOC Week celebration and at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair.

“Products that we made we displayed and sold at Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, it went really well and we made a good sale,” Ms Spratt said.

Stay tuned for more Yalanji artists stories to follow.

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