Southern Kaantju/Umpila artist Naomi Hobson will see her photographic series Adolescent Wonderland exhibited as part of the Open Hands Tarnanthi exhibition, opening Friday at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide.
The series celebrates young Indigenous people in Naomi’s community of Coen, a small town in the centre of Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland.
Speaking with NITV Radio on Wednesday, Naomi says she started taking photos of her community caring for Country while working for the local Land Trust.
“I started to take the camera out of work and into the community and just photograph the mob. Every day life in the community,” she says.
“It was the youth, the young people that really stood out to me, and they came across much more loud and proud, and they’re a colourful bunch of my community.”
Adolescent Wonderland is a cheeky and playful series of photographs that Naomi says draws inspiration from the novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
The photograph Road Play depicts sisters on a street outside their home. One subject, Laine, is pictured wearing a white rabbit mask – a reference to Alice’s escape into the rabbit hole that leads to a fantasy world of fanciful creatures and characters. The symbol of the rabbit is used as a metaphor for the playful and adventurous lifestyle of Indigenous kids today.
The collection of photographs offers a rare glimpse into the lives of young people in the township of Coen and an opportunity to tell the stories of young people.
“I’m using the medium to tell real stories that I feel don’t get told or haven’t been told. I want people to see who our youth really are: fun, playful, smart, savvy, proud, adventurous and witty,” says Naomi.
“It’s about them being proud of who they are, where they come from, their heritage, their identity, their individuality, what they believe in, their passions, their dreams and I guess that’s what my photographs tell the story of.”
Naomi says she would like the viewer to takeaway an understanding and acceptance of young people for who they are, to allow them to flourish, to grow into the people that they want to be and live out their big dreams.
“More than ever we need to embrace our young people. They need the world to see who they really are.
“I feel there is not proper representation of our youth and that their stories are not being told and heard properly. There is a lot of negativity about our youth, particularly our young men in the media and I don’t think the rest of the country are allowing them to be who they really are,” she says.
The exhibition opens on Friday as part of this years’ Tarnanthi Festival, AGSA’s annual celebration of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art. The exhibition runs until January 31.