DEADLY YARNIN: Access Arts' chief executive Pat Swell, Felicity Chapman, Access Arts representative Nigel Lavender and Honourable Justice Thomas Bradley.
DEADLY YARNIN: Access Arts' chief executive Pat Swell, Felicity Chapman, Access Arts representative Nigel Lavender and Honourable Justice Thomas Bradley.

Turning adversity into art with Deadly Yarnin

AN AIRLIE Beach artist who turned a devastating diagnosis into an opportunity to explore her indigenous heritage was honoured with an award of her own at the Access Arts Achievements Awards.

Felicity Chapman narrowly missed out on first prize at the awards, which acknowledge artists with disability in Queensland, but her Deadly Yarnin program inspired the judges so much they created a one-off contribution towards her project.

Deadly Yarnin, which shines a light on the indigenous tradition of weaving, was born when Ms Chapman was recovering from a brain bleed in 2017.

During her recovery Ms Chapman immersed herself in the traditional practice of weaving, going on to share her techniques with community workers and weaving circles in libraries across the region.

The Deadly Yarnin program was also launched in Mackay last year with the aim of bringing at-risk young men together through the traditional art form and helping them connect with their ancient culture.

Ms Chapman said in the end, the brain bleed was a gift and enabled her to deeper explore her indigenous heritage.

“I found weaving is a really gentle way to connect with our culture,” she said.

“You can create a space through weaving where people get to share their stories. Everybody has a tale to tell.”

Ms Chapman will use the Access Arts contribution to further study traditional weaving techniques from indigenous elder Gene Blow from Mirragimpah Enterprises.

She will then tour regional Queensland delivering visual storytelling and weaving workshops to schools and communities to help keep indigenous culture alive.

Access Arts’ chief executive Pat Swell said the special contribution was a first for the Access Arts Achievement Award.

“The judges just couldn’t ignore the impact Felicity’s Deadly Yarnin project would have on the local indigenous youth of the Whitsundays,” she said.

“We need to ensure the important practice of traditional weaving and yarning is not lost for the next generation.”

The Access Arts Achievement Award and special contribution is sponsored by CPL – Choice, Passion, Life, one of Queensland’s leading disability service providers.

CPL CEO Rhys Kennedy said it was vital for artists with disability to have the same opportunities as others to pursue a career in the arts.

“We are delighted to play a role in giving Felicity a head start in turning her passion into an income generating career whilst preserving the traditional practice of the indigenous people in the area,” he said.