Telling tales

Design / Life

How do you tell stories through clay? Check out this innovative must-see exhibit, blending history and art from York’s Noongar community, and you’ll find out






Presented in a light, bright vacant shop space on the main street of historic York, you’ll find an immersive journey of sculptural installations, animation projections and mixed media collages that speak of moving and deeply personal tales of the York Noongar community.

A hand painted map of the region is dotted with sculptures, highlighting places of Noongar significance, while a stop frame animation incorporating clay sculptures – a majority made using local clay – brings the intimate stories of farm life and oral histories of the community to life. This is not your everyday exhibit.

Clay Boodjar is a vivid exploration of the rich and varied history of York, a town known for its national trust buildings, and which is steeped in farming history.

“The Noongar farm worker’s stories are not just important to the Noongar community, they are important to the whole town,” says Merle Narkle Goodwin, local Elder. “We all played a role in the building of York.”


Not only is the theme of the exhibit significant to its place, but the medium used to communicate it, too.

The clay was once used to make the bricks that built the town, and so it is both intrinsic in, and emblematic of, York’s extensive history.

The collection of artworks on display were developed by a group of community members, working alongside the professional team at Community Arts Network (CAN). CAN is Australia’s longest running and leading community arts and cultural development organisation, a not for profit organisation that is driven by the belief that art transforms communities.


Clay Boodjar is part of CAN’s Rekindling Stories on Country program, a federally funded initiative that allows the exploration of such untold stories and alternative histories, presented through various creative mediums.

“We bring artists, creatives and diverse communities together to share stories, learn from each other and make inspiring art,” says CAN’s General Manager Monica Kane. “Through this, we’ve seen lives changed and communities strengthened.”

Indeed, CAN has allowed the York region’s Noongar people the space to share their stories while exploring their creativity, ultimately assisting them in producing works of artistic excellence.


Clay Boodjar is running in conjunction with the York Festival, and can be experienced for the next month.

The exhibition consists of three parts: York life, a collage created by students from York Senior High school; Welcome to Balardong, a painted map and stop motion animation created by community members who worked alongside artists Bradley Kickett and Steven Aiton; and The Hands That Worked the Land – Moorditj Maar Boodjar, a series of clay sculptures designed by participating Noongar Elders and adults.

“Clay Boodjar will give people a chance to see York and its surrounds through the eyes of some of the town’s Noongar/Ballardong population, both young and old,” says Monica. “These works and the stories that inspire them will add to the richness of York’s history as WA’s first inland town.”

The exhibition is running on weekends and public holidays until the 7th of October 2018 and is located at 110 Avon Terrace, York