Paul Bong is a senior artist and Yidinji Elder from Babinda south of Cairns.
His artistic practice has been devoted to the research and interpretation of the Rainforest Shield.
'My ancestors defended our country and our people with these shields. I defend my culture today with my shields–in my art.'
The repatriation of these objects from museums and collections around the world has given a new generation the opportunity to learn about their history and significance to the traditional Aboriginal people of the Cairns region.
Paul Bong acknowledges his Elders past and present and the traditional groups the Yidinji, Yirrganydji, Djapugai, Gungganji and Kuku Yalanji peoples of this region.
The five shields in this work all represent different things:
- Shield 1 welcomes locals, all Australians and overseas visitors to country. The dark boarder of the shield represents the mountains and the raised hub of the shield represents the city of Cairns. The footsteps mark the different paths we have all taken in coming together in this place.
- Shield 2 shows the Scorpion Totem which represents the artist, his people and their song lines. When European settlers came to Far North Queensland they came into conflict with Aboriginal people over land. The bullet holes in the shape of the Southern Cross represent what happened in many Indigenous communities across Australia.
- Shield 3 represents 50,000 years of fishing, hunting, gathering, men's business, women's business and how the Aboriginal people of the area lived in harmony along the river beds and under the rainforest canopy.
- Shield 4 shows the boomerang leaf design. The rainforest people were the first to make the come-back boomerang and this design represents the return of artefacts and culture to our present time.
- Shield 5 is the 'Whitemans Song Lines' shield. The red lines are the streets of Cairns and the black images are cars and trucks, the white dots are people in the CBD and those that are living in and around Cairns.