Design Tracks: Reconciling Futures


Education is a key player in bridging gaps and reconciling histories with futures. Like-minded thinkers in the Cultural Precinct are combining resources and investing time into the future of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and design.

Shawn Davis-Abra testing designs on the Fish Lane chalkboard. Photography by Katherine Ogg (Gilimbaa)

QAGOMA Learning, Gilimbaa: an indigenous creative design agency, the State Library of Queensland’s kuril dhagun and Asia Pacific Design Library, along with the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) are working with Queensland schools and teachers to develop Design Tracks: a program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander senior secondary students who are interested in pursuing pathways in the fields of education, art and design.

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Waynead Wolmby was thrilled to see the work of Joe Ngallametta from his home town of Aurukun on display in ‘Everywhen, Everywhere’ at the entrance to QAG / Joe Ngallametta, Australia 1945-2005, Thap yongk (Law poles) 2002-03, Carved milkwood (Alstonia muellerana) with synthetic polymer paint and natural pigments, Commissioned 2002 with funds from the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant © The artist
Shawn Davis-Abra and Jenna Lee (Designer, Gilimbaa) discuss representing Country through design. Photography by Katherine Ogg, Gilimbaa

A core aim of Design Tracks is to be student-led. So to begin the story a group of young people were invited to create the Design Tracks logo and brand identity. The first two-day session was about Shawn Davis-Abra, a young man who embodies the aspirations of Design Tracks. Within a combined senior visual art class of Year 11 and 12 students, he was the only one in his final year. He’s now in his first year at Griffith University studying Art Education. Shawn is both creative and generous, a talented illustrator and a Kirra Beach lifesaver.

left to right: Terry Deen (Head of Learning, QAGOMA), Amanda Hayman (Manager, kuril dhagun), Elisa Carmichael (Exhibition Curator, kuril dhagun), Shawn Abra-Davis (Design Tracks logo designer) Photography by Katherine Ogg, Gilimbaa

Over two days in mid-March, Shawn collaborated with designers at Gilimbaa’s Design Bank offices and visited curators, artists and educators from across the Cultural Precinct. Working through Gilimbaa’s ‘fish trap’ design process, Shawn combined two of his designs into one vision. He brought together traditional motifs within geometric shapes bound by radial symmetry. Importantly, he embedded flexibility into the logo, making each shape a space for the creative input of a small group of students who would soon be invited to connect with Design Tracks at the second logo design session.

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Shawn Abra-Davis drawing inspiration from Waynead Wolmby’s painting technique. Photography by David Williams, Gilimbaa

April brought new voices to the conversation. Indooroopilly State High School, Marist College Ashgrove, Lockyer Valley District State High School and the Queensland College of Art brought together students into a network of connections to Country, including Cherbourg, Aurukun, the Torres Strait, Wakka Wakka (Bundaberg region) and Larrakia (Darwin). The two days established space and time for each student to reflect on their own track before mapping out a collective track with each other and a network of Indigenous and non-Indigenous mentors.

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Anni Dorante, Raven Jacobs and Kieran Simpson exploring ‘Everywhen, Everywhere’ at the Queensland Art Gallery. Photography by David Williams, Gilimbaa

In representing themselves and their country, students explored mark-making and developed an improvised palette of pattern, rhythm, texture and colour. By drawing and piecing disparate elements together the group produced a cluster of possible compositions. As a result of the student’s collaboration, Shawn’s logo design came to life and in the process, so did Design Tracks. Creative collaboration enabled these young artists to connect to Country and to each other, to learn about community and to get excited about the future.

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Mackenzie Lee and her fellow Design Track creatives combining, testing and refining logos on the Fish Lane chalkboard. Photography by David Williams, Gilimbaa

Terry Deen is Head of Learning, QAGOMA

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