Brogo illustrator Sierra McManus and Brogo poet Nick Whittock have both contributed to a new book that celebrates older Australians and their stories.
The book is comprised of around 50 watercolour portraits, accompanied by a poem that has been written in interview and collaboration with the subject of the poem.
The idea for the project came from two Melbourne writers Jessica L. Wilkinson and Cassandra Atherton who wanted to show the unique contributions to society and culture that older Australians make.
Ms McManus and Mr Whittock were invited to contribute to the project after meeting the authors in Melbourne. The pair had both lived in Melbourne for a period of their lives, but grew up in the Bega Valley.
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Ms McManus is a multi-modal artist and one of those hats is as an illustrator. She was asked to illustrate a portrait of each person based off a few different photographs supplied to her.
"Ideally I would get a few pictures in different positions and contexts, and often they were in their space, so their house or their study, so there would be a few different little things in the background that I would try and capture in my drawing to show a bit about them," she said.
Ms McManus did not get the chance to read them poems until the book arrived, "I would have no more context than what I could see around them in the photograph, so what might be on the wall or what they were holding."
Most of the illustrations took a few tries to get right, whereas some were easier to get right the first time around.
Mr Whittock has been a poet for a number of years and has had several books of poetry published.
He was one of many poets invited to contribute a poem for the project. His directive was simply to interview someone over 75 years of age.
Fitting the description was one lady he knew named Ruth Young who played scrabble with Ms McManus' mother and always had a great story to tell.
Ruth had lived on a property in Brogo for many years but had moved to the township of Bega after needing to downsize due to her age- she recently turned 94.
Mr Whittock met with Ruth and completed interviews with her about her life to put together a poem.
"They were largely things that she remembered from her childhood and as she grew older as well as a little bit about why she moved to Brogo, but a lot of it were stories from when she was much younger and growing up in Western Sydney," he said.
Mr Whittock said writing the poem was a bit "daunting" as he felt strongly about wanting to do Ruth's story justice within constraints of a short poem.
"This person is so generously sharing their stories and everything they share has an equal value, so how do you say this is more valuable than that?
"My poem is quite different structurally to maybe a traditional poem. My understanding of Ruth started with this knowledge that she played and enjoyed scrabble, I thought how could I write a poem that was like a scrabble board?
"I kind of abandoned that idea because it was going to be far too difficult and too limiting, but I kept the idea of using shared words and shared letters from words.
"It's just written on pencil on a large sheet of paper and the letters curve around and run through each other where parts of words are shared," he said.
Many of the stories he selected were decided by the structure and the words that flowed throughout the stories. He said that many of the stories used were written fairly verbatim.
In the end the stories selected were largely dictated by what would fit into the creative structure he chose.
Ruth was described as having been very excited throughout the whole process, however the unusual form of the poem made Mr Whittock wary of sharing it.
"I was a little bit concerned that it might not have been what she was expecting, but I told her from the start that I didn't really write traditional poems, but she seemed very happy with it."
Last week, both Ms McManus and Mr Whittock finally received a copy of the final product and saw the collated patchwork of illustrations and poems.
Mr Whittock said seeing the final product unified the whole process for him.
"The image of that person was suddenly explained and filled out with this epic but very brief and often very moving and confronting life story," he said.
"Reading these stories gives back that voice to older Australians and gives these lessons about resilience and adaptability and life."
The book was supposed to be launched in person during the Melbourne Writer's Festival in September, but had to be postponed due to Melbourne lockdowns. It will be officially launched at a future date.
The book was published by Hunter Publishers, and copies of the book can be ordered locally at Candelo Books in Bega.