Find out more about the concepts that underlie Grounded at Introductory panel in English
This story begins on the far northwestern tip of Australia, not today, but four years ago in 2009. It is a place of heat-glazed, brittle land and far away blue. I am in the Northern Cape to work with Thancoupie, primary Thanaquith Elder, at her annual bush camp, which celebrates language and culture with the local children. It is here that the seeds are planted for Grounded; an artistic examination of Australian Aboriginal, and Scottish Gaelic, culture, language, displacement and sense of place.
There follows a sand-trail of people and phone calls, meetings and emails; a pilot project set up on the Isle of Lismore, Scotland and shared with Arrernte Elder MK Turner; a pollinating of ideas which open and close doors like a wave rolling me in to some distant unknown shore. It is three years before I am set down again, in the Gulf Country of Australia, at the small town of Normanton, primarily to run some photography workshops for Flying Arts.
The relative cool of the evening has enticed me out for a walk along its main street, wide and empty, falling to a dusty verge that stretches into the horizon. A stray dog eyes me suspiciously, and the silence is punctuated only by the evening call of lorikeets. In the solitude of the space, I can sense another person on the road and I turn my head to catch his eye. He falls into step beside me.
His name is Sidney and he is one of the traditional owners of the area, the Kukatj, Gkuthaarn and Kurtijar people. “Where are you from?” he asks. He stops in his tracks when I tell him I am from Scotland, a broad smile lighting his face. He wants to know if the story of Braveheart is true. “We have so much in common with the Scottish people”, he says. As we walk and talk, and I take his photo in the burning glow of the setting Australian sun, he asks me to do him a favour. “Will you take this photo to Scotland and tell them I’m your brother?”
Sidney did not know about the concept that had been developing over the last three years, but his words were the deciding factor in its finalisation. With renewed energy I finally ascertained the funding and the partnerships to undertake the project.
These diaries, as they will be posted, represent my time in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, based on Lewis with the Gaelic Arts Agency, Proiseact nan Ealan, and on Uist with Ceolas, Gaelic Music and Dance School, and also supported by Hi-Arts and Glasgow Life. In Australia the posts will come from Arrernte and Arrarnta Country around Alice Springs; with Bidjara people around Longreach; and from Wangkangurru Country around Munga-Thirri National Park (Simpson Desert). My time in Australia is supported by Flying Arts, Vast Arts, italk Library and The Australasian Association of Arts and Cultural Education. Culture 2014 XX Commonwealth Games and Cape Farewell are supporting production.
The resulting exhibition will be shown at Glasgow Merchant City Festival during the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014, An Lanntair in Stornoway, and toured by Flying Arts in Australia.
The concepts underlying the exhibition can be linked to at Introductory panel in English
(Grounded link to Festival 2014 Programme, XX Commonwealth Games Glasgow)
- Bringing Commonwealth Gaelic diaspora home for 2014 (scotsman.com)
- Cape Farewell