Suzannne Phoenix’s 2024 International Women’s Day project returns

Indigenous elder and educator Jacqui Wandin. Picture: SUZANNE PHOENIX

By Callum Ludwig

An acclaimed Millgrove photographer has returned with her 13th annual international Women’s Day exhibition featuring portraits of 26 inspiring women.

Made up of raw black-and-white portraits of the women involved, the series asks each of them to share what IWD means to them.

Ms Phoenix said she is excited to bring together another 26 people into her IWD portrait series in 2024.

“We continue to live in a society where gender-based violence and oppression is ever present so I continue with this self-funded series and I hope this work contributes in some way to changing perceptions and challenges everyone to reach beyond the staid IWD breakfast events,” she said.

Among this year’s participants in the project are several residents of the Yarra Valley, including sisters Brooke and Jacqui Wandin and artist and poet Belinda Rogers.

Ms Rogers said she was so glad to have the opportunity to speak on behalf of the project, mostly because it is an opportunity to pay her respects to an artist she has admired for years.

“I came across her work when I moved into the area years ago and was instantly intrigued. I thought to myself ‘This is an artist with something to say and a lot to give the world’, what I love most about her is the places she goes to find beauty,” she said.

“She isn’t at the seaside clicking pretty pictures, she wanders through ragged and forgotten streets with the grace of a street cat shimmering from shadow to shadow, she is diving into the very soul of modern culture and capturing the faces of the people experiencing it, she is looking for something, and yet it moves with her,”

“To the people coming across the project for the first time and wondering what it’s all about, I say, take a good look and then look again, these are the faces of women owning their own sacred mark on this day, behind each face is a clear and present voice, felt and shared for women everywhere, it is our voice, the voices of women we carry with us and the voices yet to be.”

Living in Warburton, Ms Rogers has exhibited her works, namely her large-scale oil paintings on cloth, near and far including featuring in YAVa exhibitions and having her own exhibit at Yering Station in 2022.

For Jacqui Wandin, the IWD exhibition was an opportunity for her to acknowledge the lives and importance of the women who came before her, including her Nana Ollie.

Ms Wandin said her nana was one of the kindest women who went through so much heartache yet still carried her dignity so beautifully.

“She was always one of those people that you would never hear say a bad word about anyone and as well as her, I think of the women of Coranderrk who were so self-determined,” she said.

“It was nice to see back then there was almost equal standing for men and women when they were doing their deputations and writing letters to the government, the women were just as important,”

“At one stage they were making more money than the men, making their rugs, blankets, baskets and all sorts of things.”

Ms Wandin is a proud Wurundjeri Woiwurrung woman, elder and educator and is currently Executive Producer in the development of a Barak miniseries.

Ms Wandin said that there has been an incredible lack of their history told, so being involved in the project is great because it gives her people a platform.

“It also celebrates the women who are still here with us or have continued this with whatever it may be, whether it may be weaving, or language as with my sister whereas I’m more of a storyteller, we all carry those genes and we carry them with a lot of pride,” she said.