The stories behind the art: Vanessa Cannon


Karlie Brady


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Artist Vanessa Cannon with her work in progress; Butterfly, ceramic plate with hand dyed raffia, 2019. Image: Karlie Brady.

At Mossman’s Bamanga Bubu Ngadimunku (BBN) Aboriginal Corporation's, Yalanji Arts, a small group of artists are sharing their culture and stories through art.

For Indigenous Australians traditional art is an essential way to pass history, culture, and stories from one generation to the other, as is the case for Vanessa Cannon, an artist at Yalanji Arts.

Ms Cannon was born and raised in the region and has been painting at the centre since she was a young girl.

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“My mum brought me down here 20 years ago and I started working here then after having five babies myself I came back in 2012 and I've been painting here ever since,” she said.

“I love it a lot, I come here three days a week and I meet a lot of new artists, before I used to be the only artist here but now we have more.”

Ms Cannon said art runs in her family with her grandmother, mother and herself all artists and her artwork often reflects the deep connection she has to her family.

“My work often has meaning about my grandparents, my five children, or other family members.

“The images I paint usually just come to me as I’m painting,” she said.

Ms Cannon said she works with a number of different mediums including painting, screen printing onto fabrics, which she said is her favourite, and ceramics, which is what she is currently working on, pictured in the image above.

“It is a butterfly and what I'm going to do with it is use weaving techniques around the ceramic piece.

“Weaving it's a traditional method for storing. Women used to go and collect food and everything in it,’ she said.

“The story (of the piece) is about a lot of different coloured butterflies in the rainforest.

Butterflies in the rainforest are different colours, shapes, and sizes and Ms Cannon said it is believed that when they start to fly around you it means a visitor that you have not seen for a long time is coming to visit you.

Newsport would like to thank Yalanji Art and the participating artists that have told their stories over the last few weeks. 

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