Koori Mail newspaper cartoonist Danny Eastwood has evened the score over the past 20 years. He’s been drawing the kinds of subjects you might not see in mainstream newspapers and depicting issues that are relevant for Aboriginal people.
“If you look at the ways non-Indigenous cartoonists portray black people we are presented as golliwog people carrying spears and boomerangs and downcast all the time. They draw us as a backward race. My cartoons show Aboriginal people as they really are – we are modern and achieve in all walks of life,” he says.
Many of Danny’s cartoons have captured the political issues over the years and are an excellent source of historical record.
A good cartoon, Danny believes, is one that allows the reader to see both sides of the story: “You will see the political and the humour all in one, or vice versa, you see
the political and the serious side of things. It’s about getting people to see the truth.”
For a political cartoonist, Danny doesn’t take sides and doesn’t judge a situation based on a Labor or Liberal point of view. It’s all about representing the issues realistically.
“One of my recent cartoons is about the Sorry Day celebrations and the politics happening in the Aboriginal world. I did a picture of [Prime Minister] Julia Gillard and [former Prime Minister] Kevin Rudd standing on the stage. The people were cheering and Julia was saying ‘They all love me now because nothing’s happened since the Apology.’”
Danny’s been cartooning for the Koori Mail for almost 20 years and has been drawing and painting all his life. At 70 years of age, he brings a lifetime of experience to his art and his cartooning.
“I’m an artist – I sculpt, paint and carve. I grew up in a different time from now and I’ve seen a lot in my lifetime. I’m a good judge of character,” he says.
He currently has an exhibition on at Blacktown Arts Centre, titled The Good, The Bad and The In-Between. Danny partners with another well-known artist Jake Soewardie to present an exhibition of work that highlights Aboriginal issues, depicting scenes from their personal memories.
The exhibition features some 40 works on paper and canvas by both artists, based on their conflicting emotions, memories and meditations. The work draws on and highlights a range of social, political and distinctly Australian issues.
Art, whether it’s cartooning, drawing or painting, has always been a way for Danny to use his ‘voice’ – he was shy growing up and used cartooning and sport to get his views across.
“I let the art do the talking for me,” he says.
Raised in Waterloo, his mum was Ngambri, from Brewarrina. As a child, he travelled between Sydney and Brewarrina regularly, and today he considers his ties are to the Ngemba and Eora peoples.
He believes strongly in using his art to help others and he visits Sydney’s major prisons – Long Bay and Park Lea Correctional Centres.
“I work with Aboriginal people in these prisons and encourage them to paint. If they can’t paint, I guide them through it, perhaps draw it for them, and then start teaching them about colours.”
Throughout his works, Danny uses his art to get a message across. Sometimes that message can be particularly hard hitting. Many of these works are included in the Blacktown Arts Centre exhibition.
“I’ve painted an Aboriginal female as the figurehead for Captain Cook’s Endeavour bow, to represent the way Aboriginal women were stolen as a result of colonisation. I will paint a sacred waterhole and there will be a bag of poison near it. But I don’t want to be too negative and get either myself or people down, so I’ve also included some abstract paintings that I had a lot of fun with,” he says.
“I’m a positive person. I’ve always done what I wanted to do.”
Danny has exhibited both nationally and internationally, and in 2008 won the prestigious Parliament of NSW Aboriginal Art Prize. The exhibition The Good, The Bad and The In-Between, with works by Danny Eastwood (Yatama Nigimali) and Jake Soewardie (Thaya Giwiirr) is on at Blacktown Arts Centre, Sydney, NSW, until 6 April 2013.
1. Think about a local subject that’s important to you. For example, you could draw a cartoon about a story you read in your local newspaper.
2. Start with stick people and draw the balloons [speech bubbles] coming out of their mouths. Put your words in the speech bubbles. Get someone to check the spelling for you.
3. Once you’ve drawn your stick people and the speech bubbles, you can start working on your stick people to make them look the way you want them to look.