12 August 2013
I am in Longreach, Central West Queensland, Australia. It is only a couple of weeks since I was in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, but already I am on the other side of the world; Stage Two of the residencies.
It is winter but the daytime temperatures are reaching 33 degrees, in stark contrast to the Outer Hebrides. And though at night it drops to 5 or 6 degrees my bedsit room in the top of the old wooden Arts and Crafts Heritage Centre remains sultry and hot under a thin tin roof. Heather is seeking out a portable air conditioner, for which I am intensely grateful.
I am sitting at a little square table covered with a yellow gingham cloth; out on the wrap-around verandah in the cooling evening, my verandah doors open to the night and the moths and mosquitoes that seek out my light. There is a beeping of reversing trucks slicing through the black night air, a rumble of road trains along the nearby highway that stretches north to Darwin; the softer sound of cicadas chirping lightly in the middle distance. A smell of smoke is hanging like dust and the inevitable dog barks somewhere in the night.
I have cooked a simple tea downstairs in the kitchenette attached to the crafts workshop space; a walk around the verandah that overlooks the sprawling, country-town streets, and down the wooden steps with my head torch, to the kitchenette.
On my first night here I was taken for dinner to meet Zane and Lyndall, two Australian Aboriginal artists and friends of Kristy from Vast Arts, part-sponsors of my residency. Zane and Lyndall are painting for an exhibition entitled My Earth Calls, to be presented by Red Ridge at the Stockman’s Hall of Fame.
In the way of synchronicity, it seems we are already strangely connected. I learn that Zane is from Tagalaka country, Croydon, near Normanton, hundreds of miles away to the north in the Gulf Country. Normanton is where I met Sidney, who I introduced you to in my blog home page and introduction to this project. And Sidney is Zane’s father’s cousin, Zane’s Uncle.
I tell Zane the story of my meeting with Sidney 2 years ago in the empty Normanton street; of our ambling conversation and its impact on my motivation to finally get this project off the ground. Zane is the first person I have met on this Australian leg of the project. And throughout the evening we shake our heads and laugh again at the connection that is already there, hovering in the wings. I ask Zane to give my best wishes to Sidney. Zane agrees saying we must complete the circle.
Even so, the connections do not end here. Because Lyndall, the only other person I have so far been introduced to here, is from Wangkangurru country around Birdsville where I am heading from here. It is meant to be, she says.
In the late afternoon, Heather pops by to see how my wonderful air conditioner is working and invites me round to meet her husband and his fossil collection. He is a true man of the west, with his beaten up hat and long relaxed beard. Their yard evokes a sense of both order and chaos, with the hundred upon hundreds of sea fossils he has collected from this unlikely place: crabs, sharks teeth, spiral shells, all stacked and displayed amidst old glass bottles, bits of engine, rocks of agate, opal, iron; and two kangaroos lazing sleepily under the hot interior sun.
(A link to a map of Aboriginal Australian languages is available in the Australia Digital Resources page of the blog, and a list of Australian Aboriginal languages)