21 May 2024

From Tidbinbilla to High Flying Eagles: the meaning behind the Raiders' Indigenous jersey

| Dione David
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Three men standing in the river with water in the the air

Where the water meets the land: Xavier Savage, Hohepa Puru and Sebastian Kris proudly sport the Raiders’ new Indigenous jersey. Photo: Canberra Raiders.

Of the many important NRL matches the Raiders have played, the upcoming Indigenous round holds particular significance for its proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players – the chance to represent their people and families and shed light on their culture.

That culture will be represented in the vibrant colours of the Aboriginal people (yellow, black and red) and the Torres Strait Islander people (green and blue) on a jersey specially commissioned for this round on Saturday, 25 May.

The jersey artwork, created by Birpai/Warrimay(Worimi)/South Sea Islander woman Kulka Fahey, depicts the theme “Where the water meets the land”. It incorporates a river through the centre, flanked on both sides by land.

“I’m fascinated by topography. When I saw the brief, that’s instantly where my brain went, starting with the idea of a river down the centre and land on either side,” she says.

“From there, I researched all of Canberra Raiders’ totems. I’ve been a Raiders supporter for a while now, and I knew they came from many different Countries and each had their own totem.”

Where the water meets the land are also symbols representing men, women and children within the Canberra Region and Raiders supporters throughout Australia. Meeting places connected within the artwork portray significant Canberra Region locations: Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, Namadgi National Park, the Australian Alps, Woolshed Creek and Lake Burley Griffin.

“I think a lot of people, when they think of Canberra, their mind goes to Parliament House, the War Memorial, Questacon and other man-made sites,” Kulka says.

“I wanted to appreciate that but also put focus on the naturally occurring wonders because there are many.”

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The final design resulted from close consultation with the players themselves, underscoring the deeply personal nature of the artwork.

Raiders players and Mununjali Githabal man Hohepa Puru, whose totem is the ‘High Flying Eagle’, says there’s profound meaning behind the totems.

“All the Indigenous players on the team had input on the final artwork and chose how we wanted to share our cultures and stories with the nation. We each have our specific totems, and they mean different things to us,” he says.

“All of us Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal boys have different connections to our individual cultures and are on our own cultural journeys ourselves. I know Sebastian Kris, Jamal Fogarty and Xavier Savage have strong ties to their culture. As for myself, I don’t yet know enough about my own background, but I’m learning more all the time, and it’s exciting.

“Being part of the Indigenous All-Stars has been a milestone in that journey. I have made a lot of connections to my clan and people – the Mununjali – thanks to that platform.

“Now, to be able to share my totem and represent my people with this jersey is another significant moment in that journey, one that I hope may lead to even more connections.”

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Hohepa says sporting rounds have a unique role in bringing important issues to the fore.

“We’re sometimes taught about Indigenous culture in school – about the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, and the adversity they’ve endured. This is a chance for those stories to be broadcast to a wider audience,” he says.

“I know a lot of the kids I work with look up to players like Sebastian, Xavier and Jamal, and I think it’s excellent for them to get to see these Indigenous players step into the spotlight.”

Among the cheering throngs with eyes locked on those vibrant Indigenous jerseys will be Kulka and her entourage.

“To have my design chosen, I’m so grateful. It’s still a bit surreal and, honestly, my greatest achievement to date,” she says.

“We’ve locked the Indigenous Round into our calendars and I’m very excited. I think it’s going to be overwhelming to see the Raiders running out in something I created, knowing that my friends and family will all be tuning in to see that, along with their many fans.”

The Raiders face off against the Roosters at the Indigenous Round on Saturday, 25 May, from 3 pm at GIO Stadium.

Original Article published by Dione David on Riotact.


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