Jane Kelly reflects on her recent journey to Gudanji Country and the deep and important call for us to care for God’s beautiful creation.
Season of Creation is such a time of celebration, spring calling for a season of change and the magnificence of God’s creativity on full display.
I feel drawn to go and spend time in creation, time that is restorative and joyful! It’s also a time I celebrate what creation is meant to be in all of its resilience, strength and beauty.
In this remembering of how things were meant to be I also feel the weight of sadness of what has been lost and all that remains at risk as climate change threatens the flourishing of God’s community of creation.
I lament and pray and cry out to God for help.
In this season of both celebration and lament for God’s creation, I recently had the opportunity to gather in Meanjin, Brisbane, for the UN Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction (APMCDRR)*. I had the privilege of being the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artist in residence and commissioned to create the artwork for this international conference.
It has been a privilege to share into this remarkable space for over 3,000 people, from over 40 countries coming from all over the Asia-Pacific, who are deeply concerned and working together to make an urgent and unified difference in disaster risk reduction.
Asia-Pacific is the most disaster prone region in the world with no country in the region spared from the impact of disasters. Special attention must be given to the needs of those countries and communities most vulnerable - the marginalized, women and children, Indignous peoples, peoples with disabilities, those living in the terrors of poverty. It is heartbreaking to see family homes, and villages ruined, businesses destroyed, and the tragedy of lives lost and sacred sites at risk or destroyed. Listening, understanding people's needs, engaging them, empowering them, and listening to their voices and to the voice of creation was a heart cry echoed throughout the gathering.
My work for this gathering was to create an engaging visual story showcasing Australia’s culture and identity - specifically celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, voice and connection to Country, while setting the tone of welcome and atmosphere of hope and action.
In my work I co-create with Creator Spirit. Every painting comes from a place of deep listening and surrender to the Holy Spirit and my gut to hear the message that needs to be birthed and sung.
I see how remarkable Jesus is in growing us, scaffolding us, helping us learn as we work and connect with others.
As I painted this image I had a profound weight in my body knowing it was my role to sharpen the resilience of those at this conference through pointing to hope and the good. To present an image of what is meant to be in God’s good and wonderful plan for His world - the celebration of life, unity, cooperation and flourishing, where we all experience safety, connection and belonging.
It's a message I’d love us all to hear as we celebrate Season of Creation.
As we lament for what is lost may we look to hope and the actions we can take. We all have a role in helping to remind people of their connection to creation and their place to look after and care for creation.
Three things inspire my hope and action:
I am inspired and taught by creation itself to keep standing stong to work towards justice and safety for all. I look to creation and see such hope! Creation is defiant. It fights for life. It is wired and programmed for living and to grow, to restore and to heal.
I am inspired by the human spirit - the strength of character seen in individuals, and the unshakable community spirit in coming together and working together, and governments committing to stand side-by-side with communities and listening to the voice of oldest living culture in the world.
I am inspired that there is this more powerful force that can overcome, that can bring life out of the depths of despair and hopelessness - this is the power of our creative God, always faithful, forgiving, renewing, creating, calling us back to our calling to care for all of creation.
I thank our creative God for the vision of hope he has given me to share in this moment and pray for Him to continue working through the conversations in Meanjin, Brisbane. These conversations were deep and sometimes troubling as we faced the loss and grief of our climate crisis and the challenge of pushing for the change we know is needed to stop the spiral of disasters and counter the climate emergency.
Please pray for our leaders. It takes strength, faith and trust to keep getting up out of the rubble of these troubling stories, to cling to hope and take action towards care, protection, nurture and welcome.
📸 L-R: Side view of Safina Stewart’s artwork “Caring”, and Common Grace’s Safina Stewart and Bianca Manning are framed by the APMCDRR2022 banner that features Safina’s artwork “Caring”.
As you view Safina’s artwork entitled “Caring”, take a moment to sit and reflect. There is a beautiful dance of colour and hope-filled imagery within this work. What resonates and stands out to you?
Explanations behind the images and patterns within Safina’s work are below.
Stewart, Safina. “Caring”. 2022, Acrylic on linen canvas. Department of Forign Affairs and Trade, Canberra.
The four messages within the four black message stick ellipses depict protection, provision, care and welcome.
L - R
A traditional shield is held in the first message stick ellipse. It represents protection. We need to stand up and defend what is most important and precious - all peoples, and all creation needs to be protected and defended. It counters injustices against the Land. It protects against greed and the commodification of human life and the natural world. In protecting Country are we not returning to our first role to be caretakers given by Creator Spirit (Gen 1:28-31).
The second message stick ellipse is of a traditional handcrafted wooden canoe. The canoe points to the abundance of creation and of practices of sustainable provision. I think about experiencing the flourishing of sea life in the ocean on a recent trip snorkeling off an island on the Great Barrier Reef this year. There was such abundance and diversity of sea life. The tools of the net and spears are used to gather food from the ocean. The cultural principles of contentment, connectedness and care teach us we must only take what is needed, no more. Just enough for the needs of that day, like manna for the Israelites in the desert (Exodus 16).
The third message stick ellipse is of a baby in a coolamon wrapped in a possum skin cloak. This is a reminder of needing to care for future generations and the urgency to making the wise decisions and actions now, for all children of the world. Working for a genuine response to the impacts of the climate crisis for future generations could be our best motivation.
The fourth message stick ellipse is of gum leaves and is a reminder of welcome. Gum leaves are used throughout Australia in traditional Welcome Ceremonies. The leaves are symbolic for cleansing, healing and welcome. They reflect the important role we have as peoples in Australia to share, to welcome and make sure all people and all creation are cared for and looked after. This truth is handed down to us from our Elders and Ancestors who listened and obeyed Creator Spirit.
There are many bold and hope-filled symbols and colours bringing calm and beauty behind these four message stick ellipses. These are a celebration of creation - waves, mountains, campfire.
Waves - The lines of purple within the waves reveal the abundance and vibrancy of the sea.
Mountains - Represent magnificent sculptures in the landscape, sacred sites and stories of creation.
Paths and Campfire - People coming together along many pathways to meet and listen deeply, and take collective action to accelerate the change from crisis to resilience.
This painting is a calling back - reminding and remembering of what is good. It focuses on the need for collective action to provide protection, nurture and care to look after future generations, and create places for healing and welcome. When we remember that there is much strength in community, hope and possibility arouses action.
*The APMCDRR is the main regional platform in Asia-Pacific for promoting coordination and cooperation on disaster risk reduction. With the theme of ‘From Crisis to Resilience’, this 2022 conference brings together key voices to help coordinate and accelerate action on disaster risk reduction to transform the future of the Asia-Pacific region.
Safina’s artwork design has been used in both digital and print formats for branding, apparel, merchandise and signage across the APMCDRR conference.
Safina Stewart is a proud Wuthithi and Mabuiag Island woman who grew up cross-culturally in New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Australia. Safina is passionate about culture, education, the arts, justice and faith and supports and contributes to the work of Common Grace as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Consultant.