The East Perth Community Group approached 16 year old Rory Charles, a year 10 Trinity College student and rising star in visual arts, music and sport to commission their second public artwork on Royal Street mid 2019. West Australian artist and designer Matthew McVeigh provided creative input and managed the commission. Matt, a Trinity College old boy, is mentor to Rory and a number of young indigenous artists. In speaking to the local news recently, Matt said “Rory expressed a desire to work on a large-scale project, so when this opportunity arose I worked with Rory to develop some concepts and ultimately offered him the commission, believing it would be great to see the histories of East Perth narrated through the eyes of a young local student, whose work could also speak to, and reflect on, the surrounding environment.
Rory is a young man connected to his culture and active with other communities through his sporting, musical and academic endeavors. I felt his concept expressed, and caught, the beauty of traditional life and the dilemmas, grind and truths of capitalism that his people have faced. In Australian culture we tend to only look to our Aboriginal elders for voice, and there is, unfortunately, still a lot of negative representation of young Aboriginal males.” For this commission, Rory painted his mural on a Western Power box, which had been an eyesore for years.
His work, titled Cultural Warrior, was conceptualised in collaboration with local Elders and depicts East Perth from past to present. In his own words, “I decided to call my mural Cultural Warrior and explore the challenges of a young Aboriginal man as he moves through time. At first his challenges are to find food for his family and to live in harmony with the landscape. On one side of the mural you can see that time has fast-forwarded and revealed a City capturing some of the challenges that a young Warrior in this area might face today.
My painting shows that whilst there are a lot of problems here, there is also hope for the future – especially if the young people reconnect with nature and their culture and if the community support and care for each other."
Rory is Wunambal Gamberra, Nykina, Ballanggarra man from the Kimberley and the recipient of numerous awards, including the Best in Show at the 2018 Darlington Arts Festival, Youth Award at the 2019 Ellenbrook Art Prize and his artwork has been acquired by the Government House and Trinity College Collections.