Gilimbaa (“today” in Wakka Wakka language) is an Indigenous creative agency in Brisbane that focuses on using creativity to connect and celebrate Indigenous culture and stories across the world.
Wakka Wakka man, David Williams is the executive director of the agency. He talks to Marketing magazine about his future and how he is focused on sharing Indigenous culture by collaborating with brands and organizations seeking social change.
Gilimbaa engages people in Aboriginal art and uses advertising as a tool to show the importance of understanding Aboriginal culture. “I’m very lucky to bring my culture to work every day. [and I] live, work and breathe as an Indigenous person,” says Williams.
Gilimbaa is one of eight agencies participating in the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) Rigg Design Award 2022. The ninth edition of this triennial event will be the NGV’s first major exhibition of advertising and communication design. Each agency will develop a series of campaign assets – including billboards, street posters and moving images – celebrating how creativity can shape who we are and the world we are part of.
Williams offers a preview of what Gilimbaa plans to feature in the exhibit. For Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, January 26 recalls a painful day marking the beginning of colonization. He says the Queen’s recent death raises big questions for Indigenous people, who have been calling for a mourning date since the 1930s. With such a recent event receiving a public holiday on September 22 (within a month of her death), he notes what this means for Australia and how priorities are decided by those in power. Social issues like this will be highlighted in the exhibition, he says, by an agency that focuses on raising the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, using their knowledge and expertise. through their designs.
He says the design process meets the industry standard, as a four-step creative process to understand the creative brief and channel it into the work. Gilimbaa’s specialty is showcasing his art by putting “culture at the forefront of an Indigenous creative agency,” Williams says, while emphasizing the importance of storytelling.
He looks back on when he created a logo for the G20 summit in Brisbane in 2014, when the whole world looked to Australia as the host country. He says he was aware of the importance of conveying a message of strength through unity, drawing inspiration from the weaving techniques of the Torres Strait Islanders. “With this story behind [the logo], it’s a really powerful feeling that celebrates who we are as First Nations people,” he says. “It’s something to celebrate, not to put aside.”
On his website, Gilimbaa adds:This award-winning logo now proudly places Australia’s narrative alongside others in this unique global collection of national identities.”
The constraints of diversity
Williams stresses the importance of diversity when it comes to portraying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which he acknowledges is “quite a challenge from a creative standpoint”. To solve this problem, Gilimbaa focuses on creating works that indigenous people can connect with. “We want that level of ownership where we and our communities are able to be more proud to say ‘this represents us’,” he says.
Additionally, Gilimbaa focuses on conveying this message to non-Indigenous people, who can learn from his designs. “It’s a very thorough and inclusive process,” says Williams, “but we have the right people around us to make sure that voice is included.”
Through his craft, Gilimbaa’s work connects cultures across Australia, he believes. “Celebrating this as a voice and representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country,” he says.
What inspired Gilimbaa?
“As an average kid growing up in Rockhampton, I witnessed a lot of racism in the schoolyard and people’s perceptions of what Indigenous people are,” says Williams. “And I was blessed with strong uncles and aunts when I was growing up to help guide me. It was those experiences that I had to lean on later. But I always found the creativity as a way to connect with audiences and people.
He explains that as a young didgeridoo player, he performed in China and the United States and felt treated like a rock star. “I came back to Australia and something was really missing here.”
He found a gap in learning about Aboriginal culture from their parents or from the media. Part of the reason for creating Gilimbaa was to address and connect with First Nations cultures.
As for the future of advertising? It indicates the importance of social media. “The next generation of artists and designers [are] using Instagram as a platform where people can raise their voices and connect with an audience by communicating our culture on our terms.
This puts them in the driver’s seat, he says, able to control and communicate his culture. “In my grandmother’s time, she was not allowed to speak her language and practice her culture. So we rekindle the fact that we’re culturally vibrant people, and to be able to project that to a 21st century audience [is] something to really celebrate. From the perspective of the Rigg Design Prize, it’s really recognizing this celebration, in terms of how far we’ve come. We [still] have a long way to go,” says Williams.