The international art group Ub Ubbo Exchange is celebrating its 15th birthday this month. Ub ubbo is a Kankanaey word from the northern Philippines and means coming together, to share and to help each other. It emphasises a deep respect for nature with the belief that you only use what you need and that you replace whatever is taken.
Although Sean James Cassidy, Director of the Australian Chapter of Ub Ubbo Exchange, lives with severe dyslexia, he has always been supported by a strong network of family and friends. Sean has championed indigenous cultures and has encouraged Wiradjuri artists to find their voice. It is through collaborations that Sean has built trust and respect.
Sean first visited the Philippines in 2007 and met Lope Bosaing, a Kankanaey man and farmer, innkeeper and clay artist. Sean and Lope discovered that they shared similar values regarding the importance of the arts and the need to protect culture. This alliance led to the formation of Ub Ubbo Exchange.
During Ub Ubbo’s 15 years it has initiated 11 cultural exchanges and mounted 17 exhibitions across both countries. It included Melodies of Woven Light, a travelling exhibition visiting Parkes, Sydney and Queanbeyan. They produced 10 original songs and completed the Rotary Peace Precinct, The Art of Resilience art competition, an article for the Australian Physics magazine, an installation at the Parkes Early Childhood Centre (PECC), Wiradjuri/English language stairway art, murals and a digital component complementing the Wiradjuri Ngurambang project.
Sean, with the support of the Parkes Wiradjuri Language group, initiated celebrations for Mother Tongue Day in Parkes. In 2014, First Languages Australia, selected Ub Ubbo’s song, I Am My Elders’ Blood, to represent and promote Mother Tongue Day.
“Since working with Sean, I have witnessed the success of using art to break down barriers and close the gap between First Nation Australians and the wider public,” said Scott Turnbull, Wiradjuri artist and Ub Ubbo Exchange member.
“It might take 20 years for the patterns of contemporary Wiradjuri art to be recognised as a distinct art style but it is a reflection of the ripples and patterns in nature and the markings on Wiradjuri scar trees. It attempts, through art, to show the philosophy and spirit of the powerful Wiradjuri word, Yindyamarra.” Scott Sauce Towney, Wiradjuri artist and Ub Ubbo Exchange member.
By Kerrie Peden
(writer, composer, Ub Ubbo Exchange member)