Kalinya Director Jirra Lulla worked with the Aboriginal players at Hawthorn Football Club to create a Guernsey for Indigenous Round 2016. Together they created individual motifs to represent each player’s story – their connection to culture, community and family. This is Jirra’s story about the Guernsey:
Disconnection from culture has devastating affects on our health and wellbeing. I believe that Shaun Burgoyne, Cyril Rioli, Bradley Hill and Jermaine Miller-Lewis’s success can be attributed to their ability, hard work, determination and a sense of connectedness to culture.
Our design concept evolved from a conversation with the team’s youngest player, Jermaine Miller-Lewis, who is a talented artist. He brought his canvases into the club’s HQ, otherwise known as the Hawks Nest and spread them out across the boardroom table. The energy in the room lifted as he revealed large scale works with vibrant colour and intricate patterning. We got talking about the canvases and about his tattoo. It is a beautiful design that shows his brother boys sitting around a campfire, their spears radiating from a central design, surrounded by patterning to represent the Ancestors watching over them. Jermaine told me that his tattoo is about his brother boys back home and also about his brothers at Hawthorn, because the Ancestors watch over him whether he’s on country or in the city. This conversation drove the rest of the design process.
We realized that each of the players have tattoos that are expressions of cultural pride. Bradley Hill has an Aboriginal flag on his arm; it looks as if it’s ripping through his skin. Shaun Burgoyne has a sleeve of hunting stories, of tracks and animals. Cyril Rioli has turtles tattooed on his shoulder, an animal significant to his family in the Tiwi Islands.
As I was painting Cyril sent through photos of paintings from Tiwi, turtle designs that he and his wife were given as wedding gifts. It’s intimidating to design a Guernsey for a match that will be watched by over a million people but even more so when you are designing a turtle to represent someone who is from one the most celebrated arts communities in the world.
I feel a huge sense of responsibly working with people stories and was grateful for the players’ generosity that allowed a truly collaborative process. The guys shared stories about growing up, hunting, what bush tucker tastes like; Cyril say’s his Mum’s turtle tastes just like popcorn chicken.
After these conversations I painted draft motifs to represent each player’s story and then went back to the Hawks Nest to seek further direction. I went home and repainted each one. Once the players signed off we took these motifs to Adidas. The designers I worked with at Adidas have real respect for culture and art. They digitized the designs, mocked up the Guernsey and I headed back to the Hawks Nest for a final meeting with the players.
My favorite moment in this design process was after Shaun, Cyril and Bradley had said they were happy. Jermaine came in last and sat with the final design for some time. I remember him dragging himself back to practice with his eyes firmly planted on the Guernsey and he said “it is exactly how I saw it in my head when we started talking”.
Photo: Courtesy of Hawthorn Football Club