Brand X has had an active presence on the Sydney scene since its former life as Queen Street Studio. How do you introduce your space to new visitors and customers?

Our space on Campbell Street is a creative retail concept store for artists to experiment with representing themselves in a retail environment. It aims to support creative and social enterprises with three months of free space to build new audiences and to sell directly to the public.

Currently we have Blak Markets as the resident artists in the space. They sell original work by remote and urban Aboriginal artists. Their application for a residency with Brand X was really compelling and we thought it a great opportunity for the people of Darlinghurst to experience indigenous culture right on their doorstep.

You’ll host an Aboriginal shell workshop this weekend during DoDarlo. What can you tell us about the event?

Shellwork is very significant to the Aboriginal people of La Perouse, where the people from Blak Markets originate. It consists of gluing tiny shells onto different objects like shoes or jewellery boxes. It’s very ornate but it’s not an art form that has a basis in Aboriginal culture – in fact, it’s thought that missionaries introduced indigenous ladies to this work in the late 1800s.Nonetheless, the people of La Perouse have become famous for their shell art and their work now appears in high-end galleries across the country. Blak Markets have Marilyn Russell and her mum Esme to run the workshop for DoDarlo – meaning participants will be working with two prestigious women who have dedicated their lives to creating shellwork.

What kind of visitors are you expecting on the day?

I think anyone with an understanding of the diversity in Aboriginal culture or an appreciation for Aboriginal artwork would get something really special out of this experience. But I hope people who are curious about our indigenous people would engage with this special workshop too. Shellwork is more about the conversation that happens around the table than making the work.

Just how much do we know about Aboriginal history in the Darlinghurst area?

There is not a lot of information about Aboriginal life in Darlinghurst as such, but Surry Hills has some very significant places including the Cleveland Paddocks (Prince Alfred Park) as an Aboriginal campsite until the coming of the railway in 1855 and St. David’s Hall as the home for the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association, an all-Aboriginal political organisation formed in Sydney in 1924 by Fred Maynard.

PHOTO: Shellwork by Marinly Russell

Blak Markets Aboriginal Shell Workshop is at Brand X on Saturday June 13.

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