Kim (Brolga) Williams

Kim Williams (Brolga) is a proud Kullilli-Wakka-Wakka woman who has just completed her Diploma of Contemporary Indigenous Art at Griffith University. She was awarded the Queensland College of Art's Talented Artist award and has been invited to exhibit her work in Perth next year. This course is unique, and only offered in Queensland.

Kim was one of eight students selected from hundreds from all over Australia to participate in the three-year course. The students' final exhibition was opened last Friday, 25 November, and it is stunning in the range and depth of the art works.

Kim's family history is central to her work. At the age of two and a half, she was stolen from her family and raised in institutions for most of her childhood. Reunited with her family at the age of 13, she was re-introduced to her culture. Her ancestors' country is Mitchell, St George and Cherbourg.

Her grandmother still suffers from guilt at not being able to keep her grand-daughter when the government officers came to take the children away from their families and their culture. Kim has however re-established a strong bond with her grandmother, who has taught her women's practices and passed on the stories of her people.

When Kim paints, whether on her body for ceremony or on bark or canvas, she is not just painting for fun or profit, she paints to demonstrate her continuing link with her country and the rights and responsibilities she has to it:

"I paint to show the world our stories; that we all own the land and the land owns us. I have the responsibility to hand the stories down to the next generations so they are not forgotten."

Kim's work seeks to make peace with the past. One central work at the exhibition is a vertical wooden piece with carved letters which show the history of her family going back to 1913. Her people were continually moved from place to place, never able to choose where they lived. They were finally sent to Cherbourg.

As part of her exhibition work, Kim travelled to every place where her family had lived, collecting earth from each place. This earth forms the floor of a display of aprons which reflects the fate of the young girls stolen from their families to become domestics.

The earth was also used to dye fabric used as a map to show the geography of the family movements.

Kim entered the Griffith University course as a painter, but changed to sculpture, when she began to weave piccabean baskets, an art form passed to her from her grandmother. This little-known weaving technique has been preserved for posterity through Kim's work, and she is passing on the tradition to her niece.

Kim's art work includes both traditional and contemporary indigenous painting, traditionally woven baskets, sculpture and lino prints. We have at present in the Lyrebird Gallery four of her paintings, traditional in form but using also vibrant blues, greens and lilacs.

Although removed from her people and culture at a young age, Kim has been restored to them, and her experience drives her art:

"My current work depicts the impact on our culture as a result of dispersal, stolen generations and black slavery in Australia. My passion is to restore and share the many stories that have been passed down to me." She adds that we are preparing for a shared future built upon understanding and respect.

Kim and her husband have lived in Beaudesert for the past 26 years, and they have six sons.

Come along to the Lyrebird Gallery to see some of Kim's unique work.