Jyllie Jackson never sits still – unless she’s making a lantern. That’s a rare joy these days, except when the CEO of Lismore Lantern Parade and LightnUp is at Moorambilla. Then you’ll find her calmly in Baradine, weaving cane and stretching muslin as evocative shapes come to life under her experienced hands.
She has just finished working on the iconic Lismore Lantern Parade, an annual event attracting in excess of 30,000 people each year in the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. The parade involves 52 different community groups in the region. “It’s why I relate so strongly to Moorambilla,” she says.
“This program also reaches across so many different socio economic groups and social and cultural backgrounds. Most importantly, Moorambilla has a great and strong connection to country and to the land. I get goosebumps about that.”
That connection comes from the remote historic site of Mount Grenfell, south west of Cobar. “It’s vast and spacious with incredible ancient rock landforms and artwork, at the edge of the inland sea. How could you not be inspired by the never-ending horizons and vast skies.”
“So here at Moorambilla I asked the boys and girls in their lantern-making workshops to think about being earthed and strong and ancient, just like the rocks. And yet they’re working with paper and tape that can tear and break easily – just like the earth itself, strong and at the same time incredibly fragile.”
“Last year we made Maliyan (the name for the protecting wedge tail eagle in the Gamilaraay, Yuwaalaraay and Yuwaalayaay languages). He is very much a spirit bird, elements of him are like an eagle but also not, a big spirit and a protector. Maliyan will also be a part of Moorambilla this year.”
With Noni Carroll’s stunning immersion images in her mind, Jyllie went to a favourite dreaming and creative place near Lismore. “Here you can walk right to the edge of a cliff and look out over the caldera around Mount Warning. I thought about Mount Grenfell as a passing through place and I imagined eagles passing through. I saw two wonderful wedge tailed eagles swooping on the thermal air flows flying together. I felt they were together for life. Which is an unusual thing for humankind these days!”
As a result, Jyllie is designing an installation of light sculptures outside the theatre. When the audience leave the theatre on gala night, they will be invited to pass through a representation of the landscape shaped by lanterns, and look up as a pair of eagles soar above them, watched over by the spirit bird Maliyan. Their journey will end with the stunning fire sculpture by Phil Relf.
Jyllie has worked closely with Moorambilla Artistic Director Michelle Leonard to develop the concept of Moorambilla lanterns since 2009. “I have a wonderful collaborative relationship with Michelle. My conversations with her are really brief – we communicate without words! We get things immediately.”
“I love being here as Michelle allows me the rare indulgence of creating lanterns. I can stop talking to accountants and marketing people and focus and concentrate on the making. I can just be with my art.”
“Rocks are weird things to make out of lanterns!,” laughs Jyllie. “But magic happens! As the Moorambilla message says, life is full of possibilities!”
Images: Moorambilla photographer in residence Noni Carroll.