Meekatharra students reconnect with culture through amazing sneaker designs


An eye-catching pair of sneakers sitting in the desert are the end product of a week-long celebration of children and their culture in WA’s Mid West.

Meekatharra District Secondary School students are putting their creative skills to the test in the city’s first sneaker competition.

The project was conceived by mental health clinician Nicholah Wasarirevu, who said the competition was inspired by the Australian streetwear convention Sneaker Land.

“One of the things I loved about Sneaker Land is that it created a platform for young designers and creatives from diverse and cultural backgrounds to come together and share their talent. and connect,” she said.

The students received a pair of sneakers and worked together every Friday to paint the shoes while talking about mental health, culture and identity.

A student’s design was photographed at sunset in Peace Gorge near Meekatharra. (Provided: Nicholah Wasarirevu)

Ms. Wasarirevu said the project also reflected the theme of this year’s NAIDOC week.

“It was inspired by the NAIDOC 2022 themes to ‘stand up, stand up and show up’ for our youth in Meekatharra and remote communities, and to amplify the voices of young local artists through art,” a- she declared.

“It is very important that we deviate from Western models and promote and recognize the connection to culture, community and land.

“That’s one of the strengths I’ve seen in this project.”

The winning drawing

Contest winner Joella Rodney Flanagan said she wanted to reflect Meekatharra in her artwork.

“I just think it’s like the browns you see when you go out in the bush or when you’re just driving around in a car,” she said.

“The dots on the front are like the spirits and people watching us.

“The two different types of circles are like the two language groups and the two lands that make up Meeka [Meekatharra].”

It was not the first time Ms Rodney Flanagan, 18, has mixed fashion with her artwork, having designed a pair of football boots for her older brother.

“He sent me sneakers and football boots to design because he wanted to wear them for the NAIDOC round in Port Hedland,” she said.

Contest winner Joella Rodney Flanagan holding her winning sneakers.
Joella Rodney Flanagan also designs football boots for her older brother.(Provided: Nicholah Wasarirevu)

One side was Aboriginal and had all the colors of the Aboriginal flag, and the other side was Torres Strait Islander themed.

“All the boys on his football team loved it and they wanted me to make the football boots for them.”

A group of people sit around a table and work on t-shirt designs.
A class of Meekatharra students work on t-shirt designs.(Provided: Youth Orientation Team)

I hope the competition will stay

Meekatharra Youth Engagement Manager, Ken Burkenhagen, has established a permanent youth group focused on art, culture and issues young people want to discuss in a safe environment.

“It’s their own culture and in some areas it’s a lost culture,” he said.

“Culture brings the family together. It tells the story of where you come from and who you are, who your traditional people are and where they come from.

“It’s passed down from generation to generation. It’s how our culture has been taught for thousands of years.”

Ms. Rodney Flanagan hoped the pageant would become a regular event.

“Just to see all the kids at school enjoying it, really, you know, it warmed my heart.”


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