First Nations lore and art combine as Larrakia elder graduates in design

Charles Darwin University

A Larrakia elder who has spent decades expressing her cultural connections through art has received a Certificate IV in Visual Arts at Charles Darwin University’s (CDU) graduation ceremony at the Casuarina campus this week.

Yvonne Odegaard said her experience in the CDU TAFE course amplified her lifelong exploration of creativity and self-expression.

“At CDU, I learned about artists and the history of European art, which I enjoyed because it was so different from my traditional knowledge and culture as a Larrakia woman,” Ms Odegaard said.

Ms Odegaard will be graduating alongside hundreds of students at the Casuarina campus this week, from Monday 22 April to Wednesday 24 April. Graduations in Katherine and Alice Springs will follow on Thursday 2 May and Thursday 13 June respectively.

She paints her grandmother Christina’s mermaid and her own crocodile dreaming, her family’s history and the animals and plants that call Larrakia land home.

Her digital art of a dugong for a recent project exemplifies her ability to merge traditional themes with new technology.

“I enjoyed my studies because the course was diverse and supportive. Working with other students and receiving guidance from my lecturers was so helpful, and I was curious about exploring new ideas.”

A member of the Cubillo family, Ms Odegaard draws inspiration from her family’s stories and Larrakia heritage to explore various mediums like digital art, screen printing, marbling, textiles, and clothing design.

“I have three Larrakia Ancestor grandmothers, all born on their Country on the Cox Peninsula – Annie Duwun, Lily Cubillo and Christina Cubillo. My father Leo Odegaard was also Larrakia, and he and Christina shared their stories with me when I was a little girl,” Ms Odegaard said.

“Six months after my father passed away, I enrolled at Dunnilli Arts, Nungalinya College in 2002 in Cert 11 in Textile Design and printing. It was because I was in so much grief and I wanted to create the stories from my father and my Larrakia grandmothers and paint them on fabric.

“Lillian Smith was my mentor, and she taught me many techniques of printing on fabric, using stencils, screen printing and marbling on fabric. Over two years, I created my drawings and learnt different ways to print my designs on fabric and exhibited a couple of times with my class.”

Collaborating with her daughter Chantelle Amos in their business Datlarwa Designs, Ms Odegaard combines tradition with modern styles, reflecting her deep connection to the Dangalaba Clan and her crocodile totem.

“Working with my daughter on Datlarwa Designs has been a joyful experience, blending our unique perspectives to create something truly special.”

“Our stories guide every brushstroke, every design concept, from inception to exhibition. Through my art, I aim to honour the wisdom and spirit passed down through generations.”

Ms Odegaard started creating Larrakia art in 1997 and has actively created art on canvas, textiles, jewellery, and fashion garments for over 26 years; involved with various art exhibitions, projects, and fashion shows, both nationally and internationally.

She has participated in Larrakia Nation Public Art Exhibitions from 2004 – 2015, as well as exhibited at Aboriginal Bush Traders over the years and mentored artists to help them create stories from their own country.

Her artwork has been sold all over the world including Australia, Denmark, France, and the US.

/Public Release.