A space for older and Elder mob to create and connect, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Australia is launching Bangawarra Art Yarns.

Sitting on Gadigal Country at Sydney’s Circular Quay, the MCA has curated the new program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders and older mob, their families and care networks.

Program participants will get the chance to share a yarn, create art and connect with culture and community in a culturally safe space.

Due to the current COVID-19 public health restrictions in New South Wales, Bangawarra will run virtually.

MCA Arts and Dementia Coordinator for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs Dr Virginia Keft, noted the program addressed the need for culturally safe programs for Elders living with dementia.

“Currently research shows that dementia prevalence amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is almost five times higher than that of the general population. It has an earlier onset too,” said the Murriwarri woman.

“When we were looking to expand the MCA’s current art and dementia programming, it seemed like a really important thing to be working for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and working to create a program that worked on wellbeing rather than medicalised terms.”

Dr Virginia Kent, Art & Dementia Coordinator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Photo Supplied MCA.

Dr Keft noted that there is a large gap in programs which support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and even “fewer for older people”. 

“What is really unique about Art Yarns is that it works on the concept of family connection and sharing culture with family networks,” said Dr Keft.

“Art yarns is completely different in that respect because a lot of art and dementia programs work with a participant and carer, or family member. We’re really looking to facilitate that cultural connection across family groups.”

Bangawarra will be delivered by a team of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artist educators who will bring their own art practices and experiences.

The team will be able to support Elders using culturally informed practices and encourage safe spaces for yarning and creating.

In a time where connection is limited, Dr Keft is pleased that the program can provide connection virtually.

“It’s a challenge we all face in this uncertain time of covid and lockdowns, but it’s about finding some way forward and ways to continue to connect despite a feeling of disconnection,” she said.

“With the online program, we can just get started and we don’t have to wait.

“Certain members of our community, they really need that. We’re really excited to provide that, it’s a very lovely thing to be able to be part of that positive change.”

Bangawarra will be delivered across 3-4 weeks, with the duration of each session being between 1-2 hours.

To learn more or register for the program, visit: https://www.mca.com.au/learn/bangawarra-art-yarns/ 

By Rachael Knowles