‘An incredible feeling’: Kamilaroi man Steven Kennedy on his unusual canvas in Denman Prospect

‘An incredible feeling’: Kamilaroi man Steven Kennedy on his unusual canvas in Denman Prospect

There’s a beautiful blend of ancient culture and modern digital art playing out across the substations of Denman Prospect.

Kamilaroi man Steven Kennedy has turned four of our substations into works of art, with a further three to be completed. It’s an unusual canvas, Steven admits, but he’s loving sharing his heritage across the suburb.

Steven’s concepts for the substations are designed on iPad, using digital art before being mapped to each substation and painted. He works under the banner Killara Art.

“It’s important to bring Indigenous art into communities to acknowledge the country itself, where we live and work, which is Ngunnawal/Ngambri land,” Steven says.

“It’s important to pay respect to the traditional owners.

“I wanted the substations to play out a story – even though they’re all designed differently – the one on Skuta Place represents a meeting place at the bottom of the valley and everything connects outward from there.”

Originally from far west NSW, Steven came to Canberra as a child with his grandparents. He attended Gilmore Primary School, Caroline Chisholm High School, and Erindale College, and currently works in restorative justice.

He discovered art “in my later years”, Steven says, and has so far delivered murals for Transport Canberra and Communities at Work, as well as an incredible piece for Illoura Childcare and Education Centre in Wanniassa.

His main source of inspiration is his older sister Kristie Peters, also an artist and owner of Yarrudhamurra Creations.

“She’s a big inspiration for me and she’s taught me so much,” Steven says.

“I like to bounce ideas and designs off my family, they’re inspiring but also good at telling me when something isn’t working!

“I tend to change colour palettes for each project. For the substations at Denman, I started with brown, white and light brown … and from there, it spans out into blues, greens, red, yellows, and darker browns.”

The area in and around Denman Prospect was culturally significant to the first people of the region, the Ngambri people. The Molonglo River was an important water source for those meeting on and traveling through the area.

Ngunnawal and Ngambri elder Matilda House has given detailed oral accounts of the significance of the Molonglo area for her family.

“We camped here because it was close to water, and that’s what people wanted in those days, somewhere where you can always have a drink of water. And, of course, the Molonglo River, it wasn’t far from here, it was part of the substance for Aboriginal people. It had shellfish, lots of fish in it, cod and crabs and ducks.”

Steven’s three children have helped their dad with painting the substations, waving to Denman residents as they drive past.

“People have seen me and waved, the residents have been very welcoming and responsive to their new artworks,” Steven says.

“I’m proud as an Aboriginal man to bring this art to the community, to share its story, and also to leave a legacy for my children — that they might come and show their children one day is just an incredible feeling.”

Matilda House quote from Background information on Red Hill Campsite, Skitmore & House, 2017, ACT Heritage Council