Welcome to Redfern

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Redfern Terrace Street Art Project

36 Caroline Street, Redfern
Reko Rennie, Nahdia Noter, Trae Campbell, Ji Duncan-Weatherby, Tyrrelle McGrath, Brandon Phillips, Isaac Phillips, Josh Addo and Josh Nolan.

Hetti Perkins, Eora Journey Curatorial Advisor
The Redfern Terrace builds on a long tradition of sharing stories through art, and marks the beginning of the City of Sydney’s visionary Eora Journey program.

The terrace on Caroline Street sits at the heart of a neighbourhood known for its Aboriginal history and activism, community life and cultural expression. It is a place where public artworks by Aboriginal artists figure prominently.

Bronwyn Bancroft and Dale Jones-Evans United we stand, divided we fail the future is in Hugo Street Reserve. Adam Hill’s stunning mural adorns the Redfern Community Centre. The Pemulwuy Park mural by James Simon and Danny, Jamie and Trevor Eastwood runs alongside the railway and is seen by visitors to the area each day. And the iconic image of Harold Thomas’ Aboriginal flag, a symbol of unity for Aboriginal people, dominates the foreground of the city skyline.

These artworks sit alongside works such as Roy Kennedy’s Mission Boy Dreams at Wyanga Aboriginal Aged Care in nearby Cope Street, Adam Hill’s façade artwork, The Cherry Pickers at Gadigal, also in Cope Street, and Fiona Foley’s Bibles and Bullets at Redfern Park.

The terrace's street art project

The Welcome to Redfern street art project complements community and cultural activities at the Redfern Community Centre and the future Pemulwuy project.

A series of street art workshops in December 2012 and Jaunary 2013 was the first step in breathing new life into the decaying terrace. The project was inspired by a call from local communities to provide a place for young people and artists to practice their art.

Artist Reko Rennie worked with a dedicated group of young Aboriginal artists from the local area to reinvigorate this tiny but iconic landmark. His workshops have strengthened relationships with the Aboriginal and broader community and helped develop youth skills. The City of Sydney’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel, along with curatorial advisor Hetti Perkins, oversaw the project.

The terrace itself holds many stories – and secrets – from its previous life. In the second stage of the Redfern Terrace project, we hope to discover and celebrate these stories as the building is re-invented as a living community museum. Similar in style to the Tenement Museum in New York, the Redfern Terrace will be a starting point for the Redfern Tour and provide opportunities for projects that tell the ongoing Aboriginal history and stories of the area.

Collaborating street art artists

Reko Rennie

Reko Rennie is a Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay/Gummaroi man, born in 1974 and living in Melbourne. His family is from Walgett in New South Wales. Through his art, Reko explores what it means to be an urban Aboriginal person in contemporary Australian society.

Reko grew up in the inner city, working class suburb of Footscray and received no formal artistic training but as a teenager discovered graffiti, which would become an all-consuming passion. He quickly began producing original art on the streets of Melbourne, and has developed an interrogative and highly innovative art practice.

Reko’s art continually explores issues of identity, race, law and justice, land rights, stolen generations and other issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in contemporary society.

Drawing inspiration from his Aboriginal heritage, the artist reinterprets traditional images in a contemporary context using spraypaint, stencils and paste-ups. His work often features the characteristic flora and fauna and historical imagery that represents his community.

Reko has exhibited and undertaken residencies around Australia and the world. His work is represented in major public and private collections throughout Australia.

Reko’s extensive experience as an artist includes running workshop projects, especially with ‘at risk’ youth. Reko’s street art workshop experience includes several projects in Melbourne, including a youth centre in Ringwood, a drug and rehabilitation program in St Kilda, 3CR community radio station; and interstate programs including Port Augusta, Moree, Kempsey and Nambucca.

His artistic process centres on exploring the adaptation of traditional symbolism/culture and personal iconography in a contemporary public art context. The success of Reko’s projects stems from his ability to draw on his own experience to connect and engage with the participants.

Young artists drawn from the local community participated in workshops held in December 2012 and January 2013. The artists worked together to create this public artwork installed onto the walls of the Redfern Terrace in March 2013.

The artists were Nahdia Noter, Trae Campbell, Ji Duncan-Weatherby, Tyrrelle McGrath, Brandon Phillips, Isaac Phillips Josh Addo and Josh Nolan. Other young and old people attending the centre also dropped in to check out the action.

Through the workshops, these artists developed conceptual and practical art skills. The opportunity to work closely with an established artist greatly enhanced their professional development and encouraged their contemporary cultural expression.

Nahdia Noter (Bundjalung) “The project represents the history of Redfern and promotes the good work that goes on in the community and goes unrecognised. And also pride in our culture…I really liked listening to Reko’s stories. It’s really cool to hear about where he’s been and what he’s done.”

Trae Campbell (Dunghatti) “I like doing art. It takes my mind off everything else. It’s part of the culture of Redfern and the people.”
The workshops were facilitated by the City of Sydney Youth Services, the Tribal Warrior Association, the Redfern Community Centre and other local youth facilities. The young artists were engaged through the Aboriginal Employment Services and paid for their contributions.

Byron Arellano, mentor from the Tribal Warrior’s Clean Slate without Prejudice program, was responsible for the young artists’ wellbeing.
“Part of my role is to motivate these young people and talk to them about the importance of the project for themselves and also for their culture. I spoke to them about leaving their footprints behind and how the project is creating history, something that one day they would be able to tell the yarn to their kids and families.”

The street art creative process

The workshops began by Reko Rennie introducing himself and his background; his experiences of growing up and the importance of self-belief.

The discussion explored how art can benefit an individual, and how success as an artist can be measured, such as by the ability to travel and work in other communities. Reko emphasises that sport is not the only ‘way out’ for young people.

Reko worked with the youth artists as a group and one-on-one to develop themes and ideas such as ‘local heroes’. The ownership of the project by all artists involved is vital to the intrinsic value of this work.

On a practical level, Reko provided workshop participants with the skills or ‘tricks of the trade’ to realise the work. Critical to his approach is the development of ways of sending a message in a public context that are more persuasive than confrontational.

The skills explored included stencilling, projection, freehand spraypainting, and paste-ups, and allowing time to consider their ideas and concepts for the work. Technology, such as scanning, was also used to realise ideas.

Welcome to Redfern

Welcome to Redfern by Reko Rennie, Nahdia Noter, Trae Campbell, Ji Duncan-Weatherby, Tyrrelle McGrath, Brandon Phillips, Isaac Phillips, Josh Addo and Josh Nolan.



Always was, always will be – Streetware 3 proposal image by artist Reko Rennie

Artwork concept for 'Welcome to Redfern' by Reko Rennie, Redfern Terrace Street Art Project based on the engraving Pimbloy: Native of New Holland in a canoe of that country, 1804 by Samuel John Neele (1758-1824) from The Narrative of a Voyage of Discovery Performed in H. M. Vessel Lady Nelson, 1803-1804 by James Grant. Collection of the State Library New South Wales.



Workshop participants

Workshop participants, Josh Nolan and Josh Addo.



Workshop participants

Workshop participants, with Reko Rennie (front left, kneeling).



Always was, always will be – Streetware 3 proposal image by artist Reko Rennie