Hunting for Rabbits by Liina Flynn
Front page story The Northern River Echo September 2011
When Lismore-based Indigenous artist Karla Dickens was growing up in inner-city Sydney, it was compulsory for her to attend South Sydney Rabbitohs matches with her family. The Rabbitohs and football culture became an integral part of her life and she quickly learned to talk the communal language of footy and live the team spirit.
“This community experience, sense of belonging, and the life-giving red and green blood has never left me even though I now live in regional NSW,” Karla said. “It doesn’t matter where I go in NSW there are always images of rabbits to remind me of my childhood in Redfern.”
Her connection with the cardinal and myrtle South Sydney team has been the inspiration for her new art project, which explores the continued influence the Rabbitohs’ iconic rabbit logo has on the community and the NSW landscape. She has recently received a NSW Indigenous Arts Fellowship, which will allow her to spend the next year working on the project. She intends to travel around NSW meeting Rabbitohs fans and taking photos of them to use in her work. Her aim is to tell a regional-statewide story of the Rabbitohs and the passion that extends beyond the streets of Sydney through the cross-cultural language of football.
“There has always a huge been a divide between culture and sport,” Karla said. “I’m hoping to bring the arts and sport together and open up a larger audience to looking at art. Maybe art fans will open up to sport too and everybody might get a bit more open-minded.”
Karla said the Rabbitohs were supportive of her project and had always been supportive of the Indigenous community.
“Like most black fellas in NSW, I live a cross-cultural life and we share histories deserving of being told,” Karla said.
She has already started a series of paintings and fibre works on this theme and is looking forward to experimenting with digital media with Sydney-based film-maker and digital artist Niles Crompton. She hopes to use the images in installations and project them onto buildings in the landscape when she tours the exhibition around NSW at the end of the project.
“It’s been an honour and a privilege to get the fellowship,” Karla said. “My art could lead anywhere as I explore this journey to find out where it does go. In the past, my artwork has been very deep and I’ve put myself on the line. I know I’ll have a personal connection to this project but I’m hoping it will be more of an insight into the larger community and not just about myself.”
Karla said she liked to use shadows in her work, which represented the past and remembering and intends to make abstract art out of photos of the footballers themselves, as well as their fans.
“Even though I have only watched a small number of games with serious interest, I am reminded always where I have come from, when I see a white rabbit on the back of a car in Casino, or red and green socks on a school boy waiting at a bus stop in Liverpool.
“It’s all about the red and green and the rabbit and no matter where I go in NSW I’m reminded of the team,” Karla said. “My first beloved toy was a velvet red and green rabbit, which I still have.”