Connecting ancient Aboriginal culture with modern design in the outback.

Thanks to ABC Mildura for this lovely write up of theĀ inauguralĀ Lake Mungo Design and Culture Camp experience.

This week, Mungo National Park, in south west New South Wales, will become a giant canvas as a group of students use nature to create a larger than life artwork as part of a week-long design camp.

The initiative, Marngo Designing Futures, involves fifteen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Melbourne and Mildura camping at Mungo for a week.

Samantha Edwards-Vandenhoek is a lecturer at Swinburne University’s School of Design, which runs the program.

She says it is designed to build aspiration to study design in the future.

“We wanted to demystify university and also make more connections to culture,” Dr Edwards-Vandenhoek says.

“So we’re trying to help them understand what Aboriginal design could be.

“They’re interested in exploring a creative career, so this is about showing them what they could do, the endless possibilities of design and art, and how that works together with culture.

“Its’ getting them excited about the fact that uni might be possible and they could do something creative for a living.”

Part of the project involves creating a giant Bogong moth, the project’s logo.

Alison Page is helping to make a documentary about the camp, which will involve flying drones over the moth and filming it from the air.

“We’re basically going to be getting lots of natural materials from charcoal to ash, to leaves, and ochre and making a really beautiful graphic work on this wonderful desert floor.”

An Aboriginal woman herself, Alison says the links between culture and modern design are strong.

“Australian design is 40,000 years old at least,” she says.

“If you take something like the boomerang or the woomera or a beautiful spear…you’ll see some very ancient design, and I think if you look at the principles behind that design, it’s sustainable, it’s beautiful, and it’s functional in a very sophisticated kind of way.

“But it also tells a story and so I try in my work to bring those principles through to contemporary design.”

Naturally, she’s a strong advocate for the students to pursue creative careers.

“A career in being creative is something that’s not only going to be a meaningful form of employment for them, but every day they go to work, they’ll be reinforcing their cultural identify and it really doesn’t get much better than that,” she says.

Making a living from being creative is something that China Lancaster is determined to do when she finishes school.

The 16 year old Gisborne Secondary College student says she’s already been inspired to follow a design path.

“I paint a lot and I make a lot of different things but after being here, you start getting more interested in design and visual communication,” China says.

But it’s about more than just making art.

“I’ve never really been with anyone who’s Aboriginal, so this is a new experience,” she says.

“I’ve never met any Aboriginal kids [at my school].

“[Being here] feels good and I like it.”