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God’s story reaches the mountains through ‘our mob’

A church in Springwood in the lower Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, has been attracting the attention of many passers-by with an exhibition of stunning paintings by Christian Aboriginal artists depicting the Easter story.

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The eight paintings are reproductions of works in Our Mob, God’s Story, the award-winning coffee table book comprising works by 66 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian artists, which was published by Bible Society Australia in 2017.

The gorgeous artworks have been displayed in the grounds of the Springwood Presbyterian Church on Macquarie Road since March 22 and will remain on show until April 28.

The gorgeous artworks have been displayed in the grounds of the Springwood Presbyterian Church on Macquarie Road since March 22 and will remain on show until April 28.

Parishioner Janice Johnston spent six months tracking down the artists whose work she wanted to reproduce to ask their permission to use their works in an Easter exhibition for her church. But when she discovered the church was to be a polling space, she hurried to get the installation up earlier.

“We put it up the day before polling day because lots of people were coming into the space and people were asking about it and enjoying it,” she tells Eternity.

“I discovered how much people are drawn to Aboriginal art and people were asking why we were doing it and what was it about. As people passed by they would stop and look and I had a piece of Scripture under each picture and they would read it and take photos of it.”

Janice said she saw the book in a library a year ago and loved it, and thought it would be great to use some of the paintings to attract attention to the church.

“We have a central location in the main street and one of the aims of the church is to take advantage of that location and we have a roster of people to keep the church open every day,” she explains.

“The garden is lovely and it’s a historic stone church, with a pathway through the grounds, so we’ve taken a few initiatives to make it inviting and noticeable.”

The journey of tracking down the artists took Janice to Tennant Creek, where she got in touch with Barkly Arts Centre, whose director Georges Bureau sent her 29 paintings by local indigenous artists, which were exhibited inside the church for four weeks.

“We sold almost half of the paintings, which was a huge success – people seized on them – so it’s just snowballed,” says Janice.

“Although we have open church, we need a much more overt presence and I’d like do something like this several times a year – an installation that people comment on and that has a message.”

With Foundation Day being celebrated in Springwood on Saturday April 27, the street will be closed to traffic and full of stalls, and Janice has stocked up on more copies of the book Our Mob God’s story to sell to the visitors.

Bible Society’s church and community relations manager, Jonathan Harris, will talk about the book and the paintings at both services of Springwood Presbyterian Church on Sunday.

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