David King's tale of the devastation wreaked upon Narrow Neck in the 2019/2020 bushfires, Gunai Dhaura Mulanga, has won the Blue Mountains Stories: A Year Like No Other competition and its $1000 prize.
Mr King, a proud Gundungurra man, wrote of bearing witness to tragedy and of daring to embrace hope. The judges remarked Mr King's story: "...offered a powerful and deeply personal look at the connection to Country and the importance of being a custodian of the land we walk on."
"Being a Gundungurra Man I have a love for our natural world and our processes to care for it," said Mr King said. "To express this about the fires and Country was exhilarating. To have these words acknowledged with the prize was humbling. It also gives me hope and encouragement. Yadhung jii."
An initiative of the Blue Mountains City Council, Blue Mountains Stories sought to capture individual experiences of life in the Blue Mountains during 2020; a year marked by bushfires, floods and COVID-19. Entries could take the form of words, images or a combination of both. There were three categories for judging: open, high schoolandprimary school. More than 100 entries were received across the categories.
Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill said of the entries: "This assemblage of stories and artworks tell tales of loss, resilience and hope that reflect our community's experience of life during the tumultuous year 2020. It creates a meaningful archive for Blue Mountains residents acknowledging what for many was a difficult time."
Second prize was awarded to Daniel Lewis for his work that the judges found, "thoughtful and heartfelt ... seeing the hope of regrowth in both the landscape and also the community".
Third prize went to Sophie Vivian whose story was commended by the judges as: "a powerful written piece that focused on the landscape and the changing of it as the fires swept through."
The quality of the entries received was so impressive the judges awarded additional recommendations of highly commended to two artworks and a special mention in the primary school category.
Highly commended were Ben Pearse's arresting photograph of a raging bushfire 'falling down' Narrowneck Plateau and Samara Thomson's poem and accompanying painting gives comfort by honouring selfless acts of people in times of crisis.
Pinky Carey-Webb's heartfelt work, a special mention in the primary school category, centred on love for family and allowed us to view the year's events through the prism of youth.
Varuna, the National Writers' House, lent their expertise to Blue Mountains Stories as a creative facilitator.
Varuna's Strategic Initiatives and Development Officer Rebecca Goosen, said: "The project has really given us a chance to get a glimpse into many different perspectives of 2020. There was the use of humour, insights of being stuck indoors during lockdown, words given to the fear that was felt during the fires alongside dreams for the future. 2020 was a year that brought fear, anxiety, sadness and isolation to all of us but it was also a year of reflection and hope."
The entries were judged by writer Jody Lee and photographer, artist and designer Ona Janzen, both Blue Mountains residents. They said it was a great privilege to judge the competition. "The year revealed to us all the real meaning of resilience - the capacity within to be able to recover from difficult times and events."
The major prize winners for the Open category are:
- 1st prize: David King $1000
- 2nd prize: Daniel Lewis $750
- 3rd prize: Sophie Vivian $500
Highly Commended: Ben Pearse and Samara Thomson
Winners of the high school category are: Griffin Arnold, Frankie McNair, Eleni Pringle, Abbie Payne, Jessica Stevenson, Maggie Vivian
Winners of the primary school category are: Alice Pigram, Heidi Wheelhouse, Sahara Adams, Ivy McManus, Eva Murdoch, Eva Luna Field, Alina Brown, Arlan Brown-O'Keefe, Lilian Field
Primary School special mention: Pinky Carey-Webb.
Mayor Greenhill said: "Congratulations to our winners and thank you to all participants for sharing their art and their experiences with us all. This collection forms an important piece of history, a snapshot in time, and a record to reflect on the hardships, strengths and resilience of our community."
You can view a gallery of the artworks at: https://yoursay.bmcc.nsw.gov.au/blue-mountains-stories.