Teho Ropeyarn is an artist and curator from Injinoo, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland.
Born in Mount Isa in 1988, he holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts (UNSW) in Sydney and is currently based in Cairns, Queensland. Ropeyarn is descended from the Angkamuthiand Yadhaykana clans from Injinoo on the mainland, Badu, Moa and Murray Island in the Torres Strait; Woppaburra people (Great Keppel Island) and Batchulla people (Fraser Island). His practice is focused on his father’s people’s heritage. Having lived in Injinoo most
of his life, he focuses on his Aboriginal heritage to keep what is remaining, alive.
Water is integral to the Injinoo people, present in our creation stories as it is in my nation’s identity. I am a descendant of the Seven Rivers people of the Angkamuthi Nation, northwestern Cape York. The seven rivers that define the Angkamuthi land mass are Jardine, MacDonald, Skardon, Doughboy, Ducie and Jackson Rivers and Crystal Creek.
Our totem is uyinthayn (freshwater turtle), ikamba (crocodile) and akaymu (dingo). The rivers run into the Gulf of Carpentaria and Arafura Sea. Our creation stories are led by two umbah, great carpet snakes who formed the Great Dividing Range by digging for water. The lands were formed by the movement of their bodies; they created springs, creeks and rivers using their tails which drilled into the earth.The most significant watercourse on our country is the Jardine River, Queensland’s longest perennial river system. The river traverses lands of all four clan groups that make up the Injinoo people: Gudang (north), Yadhaykana (east), Atambaya (south central), Angkamuthi (west). The head waters of the Jardine River fall off a low-lying plateau that is within the Great Dividing Range.
Presenting this new series of prints using the Cape York Lily plant as a reference to home in Injinoo and country, these works are purposely displayed upside-down to reflect the sacredness of land and the countless footprints that have shaped the stories. Our culture tells us that we go back to the land as Aboriginal people and become part of the surrounding environment. I have thought to change the way we see the landscape through our everyday western eye, and rather flip the imagery, to change the way we think about how Aboriginal people see the land. I have done this so to explore the notion of Aboriginal worldviews where that the land is not what you see when you know it from the inside out. This teaching comes from parents, family members, and elders as they continue to pass on generations of stories orally that continue to shape the land as a spiritual entity and life force. The Cape York Lily flower is reminiscent of family gathering and bush camping during the 90s on the east and west coast around Injinoo and northern Cape York. Teho Ropeyarn, 2022.