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  • Corey Gagaru Czok Corey Gagaru Czok (Mununjali people, Yugambeh Language, Bundjalung Nation), Two Rainbows

Corey Gagaru Czok (Mununjali people, Yugambeh Language, Bundjalung Nation), Two Rainbows

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synthetic polymer paint on timber, 2023


As a First Nations artist I am culturally aware of my custodial responsibility toward Country, and the necessity, through good stewardship, to manage its natural resources. For this reason, much of my artistic output utilises recycled and upcycled materials that are discarded by our society. The coffee table entered in this year’s Art Show (“Two Rainbows”) was discovered on the streets of Prahran abandoned for kerbside rubbish collection. The table has been completely stripped, sanded, repainted in acrylics and glitter glue, and sealed to fashion a revitalised and functional art piece.

The outer ring of the top panel depicts my interpretation of the Rainbow Serpent/Snake and reflects my connection to the artistic heritage of my people, and one of our primary totems. The choice of colours is an explosive fusion that speaks of the joy of life and the very essence of the Rainbow Serpent as a cultural icon.

The next ring comprises 8 ceremonial and/or significant events in the lives of First Nations people: Corroboree, Marriage, Birth, Hunting, Fishing, Story Telling, Art, and Artefacts/Tools. These are all spiritually and culturally connected and linked by song lines.

Moving again toward the centre of the work is the second of my people’s totems which is the Goanna and a depiction of the tracks left by a running Goanna. These tracks lead the eye onto the second last ring which speaks of the various creeks, rivers, waterholes, and oceans that link my people to the sea and its food sources such as fish, eels, prawns, oysters and mud crabs.

The final circle at the centre of the work is chaos and demonstrates the conflict that occurs for many Indigenous people when navigating the disparities that exist when attempting to lead a culturally significant lifestyle in a dystopic 21 st century world. It is the turmoil of being me.

The bottom panel reintroduces the Rainbow Serpent/Snake and alludes to its powerful cultural significance, and iconographic longevity, as a Dreamtime creator and entity that underpins all the significant themes in the panel above it. This panel also draws upon the privilege I felt when experiencing my first double rainbow in the small Western Victorian country town of Mortlake (Girai Wurrung, also spelt Kirrae Wuurong and Kirrae Whurrung).


Artist Bio:

Corey Gagaru Czok is a Mununjali (Beaudesert, QLD) man, Yugambeh Language, Bundjalung Nation (Northern coastal area of NSW and S.E. QLD) and he’s extremely proud to be able to share stories about his culture through a range of artwork mediums. The Bundjalung people, also spelt Bunjalung, Badjalang and Bandjalang, are the original custodians of this region extending as far north as Beaudesert, and south to around Grafton. The Bundjalung people tell us that Rainbow Snake, or Serpent, and the Goanna worked together to create Bundjalung Country.

Since 2019, he has lived in Naarm (Melbourne, VIC) but grew up on Gubbi Gubbi (Sunshine Coast) Country. He spent his 20’s and early 30’s living on Gadigal country, Eora Nation (Sydney). Since Nov 2020, Corey commenced being an artist which he considers a hobby. Identifying as a Gay man, he likes to paint with a large variety of colours being influenced by the Rainbow Flag. Therefore, his artworks appeal to every person. He uses acrylic paints and primarily paints on canvases but given his teenage years where he considered becoming a carpenter, he has a real love for timber furniture. Spanning back through his primary, secondary or tertiary years Corey has not been formally trained in the arts. Corey entered the last Koorie Heritage Trust exhibition.