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Tori-Jay helps keep culture alive

The ancient art of storytelling is a fundamental foundation of traditional culture, providing a platform for our knowledge to be passed down through the generations. One such storyteller has received a grant to help her continue her work.

Tori-Jay Mordey is an 18-year-old illustrator studying a Bachelor of Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art who received a $2680 scholarship under a new nation-wide literary scholarship program.

She is one of the first recipients of the Australian Indigenous Creator Scholarships scheme, which was established this year by Broome-based Indigenous publisher Magabala Books. She says that it will help her continue to pursue her passion.

“The Magabala Scholarship has made it possible for me to enhance my skills and express myself creatively,” she says.

“Without the scholarship I wouldn’t have been able to afford the software and projector I have now been able to get.”

Tori-Jay already has a book published

Tori-Jay is already a published illustrator with Magabala Books – Bakir and Bi is an exuberant and aesthetically engaging book based on Torres Strait Islander creation stories.

Originally from Hervey Bay, she now attends Griffith University at Southbank, Brisbane and loves her studies because of the knowledge she is acquiring and the poetic freedom allowed.

“It’s so down to earth and enables me to learn more about my culture and myself,” Tori-Jay explains.

“We get to create the art – it’s not just based on the traditional stuff. We look at the traditional art and reinvent it in a contemporary way and give it a new angle.”

Tori-Jay decided to pursue illustrating in her last year of high school when some of her artwork turned out “really good” but will still focus on her “contemporary and mainstream style”.

“It feels amazing because I’ve already taken that big leap into what I want to do in life – being an illustrator. It’s good to see how close I am to being there already at such a young age,” she says.

“I try to achieve a meaning and get some type of point across, while making it appealing to the viewers.”

After completing her studies she wants to make a name for herself on an international scale and explore different mediums but however far she diverges from home she will always know the significance of our stories.

“Hopefully I’ll be doing more books and lots of illustrations, maybe even some album covers. I want to get my work out there and all over the world,” she says.

“I think our stories are very important to pass on because passing them down to different generations keeps our culture alive.”

The scholarship program has been funded through private donations, and Magabala’s Philanthropy Manager Sharon Griffiths says the grants provide crucial support to the development of both the creators and their future work.

“It is exciting that a small independent publisher like Magabala can initiate and garner the support of the wider community for a program of national significance and we are very proud of the outcome,” says Sharon.

Sharon said a fundraising appeal was now underway to enable the scholarship program to continue next year and open windows of opportunity for more Indigenous artists.

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