'Yia nukanha yia ungkwanganha' (our story, your story)

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop, "Yia nukanha yia ungkwanganha" (Our story, your story), at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.The process was informed by Indigenous women sharing stories about their own art (ceramic vessels that tell a story.). We were asked to think about a happy memory or story as the workshop evolved around story-telling.

Sincehave started making ceramics, I have kept remembering my childhood for some reason, so it was no surprise that I immediately started searching my childhood memories for a happy one.

On the day of the workshop, in the gallery, before we entered the room, I was talking to my friend, who was also attending the workshop, about my thoughts and memories; about my grandma, Mamatie. I was her favorite grand child. She used to tell my sisters and I bedtime stories when we were kids, and I would fall asleep very quickly. She would stop the story as soon as she saw I was asleep, even though my sisters were still awake. My sister still jokingly tells me that she does not know the ending to any of those stories.

My Grandma was a very simple woman who had migrated from Iraq to Iran when she was 20 years old and was never spoke Persian like we did.

At the workshop, Holly (Holly Macdonald), the organiser, gave us an introduction to what was going to happen. Indigenous ladies did some demonstrations and told us how the whole event revolved around story-telling.

The room was field with great energy and to me it was because of their pure presence there. We started making our vessels and when mine was almost finished, Judith - one of the indigenous ladies - who was passing behind me, saw my vessel and stopped to tell me that I was doing very well. It meant a lot to me. She said that my vessel looked like an Indonesian style vessel (unfortunately, I cannot remember the name). She then brought me a book with a picture of herself making a big vessel in that style and told me that I should not make a lid for my vessel.

The lid is, of course, an important part of a vessel since indigenous people usually make a vessel and paint a story on it before making the lid and sculpting a little figure which reflects the story and attaching it to the lid, thereby completing it.

When Judith told me that I should not make a lid, I felt overwhelmed with emotions - all day, I had been feeling close to my Grandma and now Judith was telling me my story did not need an ending.

The whole experience was so personal to me!

Unfinished stories did not need endings anymore, they became the story itself!


The workshop was such a unique experience for me (Thanks to @hermannsburgpotters , @h_ollymacdonald and art gallery of NSW). I was so honored being taught by the people of this land and thought you may enjoy my story.


Here is a photo of my vessel:



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