Nod to NAIDOC Week 2021: My Culture And Me


As much of Australia celebrates NAIDOC Week 2021, I sift through my stacks of indigenous inspired picture books and pull up at these two by one of my favourite author illustrators, Gregg Dreise. Dreise’s storytelling through considered speech and stunning artwork never fails to elicit wonder and respect. Significantly, the National NAIDOC Week 2021  theme this year is Heal Country, which calls for stronger measures to recognise, protect, and maintain all aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage, sentiments that permeate powerfully through Dreise’s work.

 My Culture and Me

Imbued with traditional Indigenous dot painting and artwork throughout, My Culture and Me is an ode to Country. Dreise employs descriptive verse to encourage a song about the natural features of Country, gradually transferring the colours of the land onto the peoples who reside there. As their heartbeats pulse, so throbs the spirit of the land demonstrated as feet stamp percussion on the ground. It’s these expressions of song and dance that spread wide and joyously across the faces of the descendants of Australia’s First Nations people, inspiring confidence and recognition of past honours and promises to protect and care for Country.

The concept of acknowledging the past, understanding its significance and respecting its ability to guide us through the future is the keystone of celebrating ones culture, something this book does quietly yet unashamedly.

Suffused with strong symbolism, colour and design, My Culture and Me pays tribute to Dreise’s own vibrant ancestry whilst reminding us to remember and value our own unique traditions and cultures with unquenchable pride. Perfect for creating conversations about our First Nations people, cultural importance and the necessity of story to preserve, educate and illuminate.

Title: My Culture and Me
Author Illustrator: Gregg Dreise
Publisher: Penguin Random House, $24.99
Publication Date: May 2019
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780143789376
For ages: 4 – 9
Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Penguin Random House, Boomerang Books

Cunning Crow

Cunning Crow is another title in the picture book series that endeavours to sustain and promote an appreciation for multiculturalism through the sharing of stories about Country. Each tale highlights moral ideals that reference differences, tolerance, self-esteem and respect for our next generations. All feature a dazzling colour palette with strong indigenous designs. Cunning Crow elevates this imagery spectacle as it’s about the rainbow colours of Australian birds.

I am familiar with a few tales featuring Waan, the white crow and how he procured his present day appearance. Most utilise the element of fire to represent anger and greed thus illustrating the virtues of patience and kindness. This version is beyond bright and beautiful depicting blindly ambitious crow succumbing to an unhealthy desire to be the most colourful of all the birds. He devises a way to divert the rainbows’ colours to his own feathers with the use of fire but over estimates the power of the sky’s Dreaming magic and his own colours are burnt away leaving him with black feathers.

This dramatic story is a reminder that we should be proud of who we are no matter what colour or coverings hide our true inner beauty; forgetting this results in unrequited longing and remorse. It implores us to value our differences as fiercely as we admire the beauty in others, without jealously and hatred, to promote a bountiful and fulfilling life. Perhaps we should all take a feather or two from Waan’s story of self-esteem.

Title: Cunning Crow
Author Illustrator: Gregg Dreise
Publisher: Magabala Books, $24.99
Publication Date: October 2019
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781925768862
For ages: 3+
Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Magabala Books, Boomerang Books

Comments

Norah Colvin said…
I am so pleased to see how prolific a writer Gregg is becoming and that his books are finding new publishers too. I really enjoy his books. His artwork is beautiful. I love all the colours he uses, and I really appreciate the way he tells stories of his culture. They are an excellent way to start the journey to healing country with young children.
DimbutNice said…
They sure are, Norah. Plus he has a new one in the series now too. The colours and messages are so vibrant and absorbing. I love them. It all helps when it's encased in such glorious story telling.

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