Parramatta Eels fans will be reminded of its rich history when players don an Indigenous-designed jersey in Round 10 of the 2016 season. A first in the club’s 70-year history.
“We’re very proud to have such a special Indigenous jersey, and I am eagerly looking forward to Round 10 when it will be worn.” Parramatta Eels CEO John Boulous said.
Renowned Indigenous artist and 2015 NAIDOC Artist of the Year, Daren Dunn, was honoured to create the design.
“It’s the most special feeling in the world when a club approaches me, I can’t explain the feeling or the process,” Daren told NITV.
He’s already designed jerseys for the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Penrith Panthers. And now the Eels will pay homage to its Aboriginal heritage.
The design celebrates and honours traditional owners, the Darug People, and their deep, ancient heritage.
“I loved designing the jersey in the way I did because of the education I personally gathered from the local knowledge, and people who live and work in the community,” Daren says.
The design features the Eel Dreaming, a significant part of the Darug people’s ancestral spirit.
“I’m strong on totems and educating how important totems are to our people. It shows where we come from’ he adds.
As a Gamilaroi man hailing from Coonabarabran and growing up in Dubbo, Daren learned his craft simply by observing his elders.
‘I’d sit near my uncles they were always painting. I didn’t pick up a brush and start painting it was actually there. I listened and watched people around me, I was never shown how to paint. It was a natural gift” he says.
A former footy player himself, Daren turned to art after becoming seriously ill which saw him leave the field for two years and ultimately give up the game. But he soon found his true calling in art and has since gone on to build a successful career.
Daren has created works for some of the world’s most prominent athletes including David Beckham, Hector Lombard and Roy Jones Junior. He’s also produced hand-painted cricket bats presented to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to celebrate the launch of the Cricket World Cup in 2014.
But even with all of his experience, Daren remains grounded and uses his art to push a message close to his heart.
“I don’t want any kid of any nationality to be silenced. I use my art to engage and motivate kids. I waited until 38-years-old to speak up."
Inspiring the next generation
Through Alenarra Enterprises, Daren works with young people in the ‘Get Black on Ya Feet’ program helping kids connect to culture through art.
“It gives Aboriginal kids a platform and builds self-esteem. I get educated too, I learn more as a blackfulla,” he says.
And this project was no different. Daren worked with three young Indigenous kids to assist with his design.
“If a club doesn’t have participation with kids then I won’t participate” he says.
With all of his designs he always works with the local Indigenous community to capture their story.
“I paint for the area, I consult with the people in the area with the elders and community members. I always do my homework.” he says.
Designing the jerseys is one way, Daren believes, unites Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia.
“What I’m happiest about most, is that a club wants to make change. When you make change our community lifts, not just in stand up but we smile, we feel appreciated and proud. The response in emails and texts on social media, people buying the jersey even people that don’t go for Parra, that’s special,” Daren says.
And even more special when it transcends onto the footy field.
“There is nothing better than seeing other Indigenous brothers wearing my jerseys, but it's an even better feeling seeing non-Indigenous players running out with our culture on their backs. It's a feeling I just can't simply explain” he says.
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