Peter Datjing’s paintings have been revered around the world. His artwork is a window into a culture that spans generations. But Datjing’s work and livelihood were threatened when he started to lose his sight.
Thanks to the support of people like you, we were able to save Datjing’s vision so he can now continue his beautiful work.
Datjing’s art is a manifestation of his responsibilities as an Elder and leader of the Gumatj (Burarrwanga) clan on Elcho Island in North East Arnhem Land. He is a custodian of his culture, trusted to keep it alive. It’s his job to teach the younger generation the importance of ancient traditions in modern Australia.
The children, they have to learn from both worlds. My world and your world...
- Peter Datjing
Over the past few years, Datjing’s work as a Gumatj elder and an artist has been at risk with the development of a blinding cataract. Datjing’s fears were realised when he noticed his intricate artistic works, drawing upon thousands of years of stories and culture, were suffering due to his loss of vision.
I can’t paint this [painting] without glasses you know. I will wear glasses because I have cataract on my eyes. And every time I paint or walk through the sun, my lids start falling down – like I’m crying for someone.”
- Peter Datjing
His failing eyes started to affect several facets of Datjing’s life. Not being able to paint, sell his artwork, or teach at the local school was a threat to his livelihood. And as a master hunter, Datjing also relies on his eyesight when he hunts and fishes to provide for his family in the peaceful isolation of Elcho Island.
The Foundation’s eye screening program and partnerships with local hospitals ensured that Datjin received the surgery he so desperately needed. Today, he is transformed. With sight restored, thousands of years of stories, songs and traditions will be passed on from one elder to an entire generation.
The isolation of the community protects their traditions but also presents hurdles when it comes to reliable health services. Fred Hollows knew this, and it's why he worked tirelessly to bring these services to Indigenous people in need.
Today, work like this is only possible because of your support. But there’s still much to be done to bring quality eye care to Indigenous Australian communities.