Insights on Grounded, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brisbane

More feedback from the comments book in Brisbane can be viewed via this link: Comments from Grounded at Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. And for a small selection of the feedback from the same show in Glasgow, during Festival 2014, XX Commonwealth Games, you can find comments here.

Brisbane was the second venue in a tour of Grounded to 12 galleries in Australia by Flying Arts Alliance Inc. (The current touring schedule is at the end of this post, with a couple of spaces still available for bookings from end 2017.)

We are looking forward to the next stop – Coalface Art Gallery, Moranbah, opening 28 January 2016 – 29 February 2016.

You can link to information about the exhibition at these links: Introductory panel in English and Introductory panel in Gaelic.

For those new to the blog, the Grounded exhibition, a commission by Glasgow Life for Festival 2014 XX Commonwealth Games, has also shown since at An Lanntair Art Gallery in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, as a partner event at Hebtember Festival.

The Colour of Language arts educational project came out of Grounded’s showing at An Lanntair in Stornoway, Scotland. The Colour of Language frieze is growing and now almost big enough to cover a wall at An Lanntair Gallery in Stornoway, with the latest additions by some children from Hazelwood North school in Gippsland, Australia. If you are interested in joining in you can contact me through this blog here.

The story of my time in jail in Alice Springs, subsequent lack of conviction in court, and implications of this story for the local Aboriginal population, can be linked to here. Then here for the court process following arrest. And a response to the Alice Springs jail post by Professor Smith can be found here.

Three audiovisuals that were part of Grounded, (Wadlu-gnana; Freumhaichte; Who Cares for Country) can be watched here

The book that accompanied the exhibition can be found at Exhibition explanatory book

Educational workshops run at An Lanntair Gallery in conjunction with Grounded can be viewed here and here.

Joe’s educational video of me talking about the exhibition can be viewed here.

Photos of the Glasgow opening event are here. Glasgow workshops, talks and exhibition details are here. And the Digital Resources pages of the blog for further information are here and here.

An interview about my work with journalist Jim Gilchrist is on the Struileag website which can be read at Jim Gilchrist’s review or linked to here.

A review by Dr Kate Robinson can be found here. And you can listen to a cut down recording of “In Conversation: Connecting through Culture” at this Vimeo link. (16 mins.) (One of our afternoon events at Glasgow Festival 2014 showing). Or listen to some music from one of our Glasgow afternoon events here.

A radio interview with BBC Radio Scotland Voices of the Commonwealth, which explores some of the concepts behind Grounded, is now available for listening to here.

My artist biography can be linked to here and here and my personal website is here

The introductory page for the blog can be found here.

The Grounded residency diary entries begin here in Scotland and then in Australia here. This is a record of my thoughts whilst gathering the material. These thoughts and images inform the production but are not part of the final exhibition.

Some other sites that link to Grounded can be found here

Funder acknowledgements can be viewed here

At this stage the tour schedule is as follows. There are still also a couple of spaces available for further bookings:
John Mullins Memorial Art Gallery, Dogwood Crossing 24 July 2015 – 8 September 2015
Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts 30 September 2015 – 17 October 2015
Coalface Art Gallery, Moranbah 28 January 2016 – 29 February 2016
David Harvey Sutton Gallery, Cloncurry 15 March 2016 – 30 April 2016
Texas Regional Gallery 28 May 2016 – 9 July 2016
Gympie Regional Gallery 23 August 2016 – 29 September 2016
Gallery 107 Dalby 14 October 2016 – 8 November 2016
Tableland Regional Art Gallery, Atherton 14 March 2017 – 23 April 2017
Mundubbera Regional Art Gallery 5th May 2017 – 28th June 2017
Gladstone Regional Art Gallery 20 July to 9 September 2017

Night time views outside Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brisbane

At night time the Judith Wright Centre reverses the Hebridean projection from Grounded so that it shines onto the street.

It was lovely to meet and work with everyone in the enthusiastic group of participants at the accompanying workshop on Sunday, there to work on their own photography and have some fun with their cameras. They did some great work. My pleasure to work with you all.

It feels a bit sad to be taking Grounded down in Brisbane now. Will be posting some of the heartwarming feedback comments soon. And looking forward to the next stop – Coalface Art Gallery, Moranbah, opening 28 January 2016 – 29 February 2016.

Brisbane was the second venue in a tour of Grounded to 12 galleries in Australia by Flying Arts Alliance Inc. (The current touring schedule is at the end of this post, with a couple of booking availabilities from end 2017.)

You can link to information about the exhibition at these links: Introductory panel in English and Introductory panel in Gaelic.

For those new to the blog, the Grounded exhibition, a commission by Glasgow Life for Festival 2014 XX Commonwealth Games, has also shown since at An Lanntair Art Gallery in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, as a partner event at Hebtember Festival.

Feedback on the Glasgow Festival 2014, XX Commonwealth Games exhibition can be linked to here.

The Colour of Language arts educational project came out of Grounded’s showing at An Lanntair in Stornoway, Scotland. The Colour of Language frieze is growing and now almost big enough to cover a wall at An Lanntair Gallery in Stornoway, with the latest additions by some children from Hazelwood North school in Gippsland, Australia. If you are interested in joining in you can contact me through this blog here.

The story of my time in jail in Alice Springs, subsequent lack of conviction in court, and implications of this story for the local Aboriginal population, can be linked to here. Then here for the court process following arrest. And a response to the Alice Springs jail post by Professor Smith can be found here.

Three audiovisuals that were part of Grounded, (Wadlu-gnana; Freumhaichte; Who Cares for Country) can be watched here

The book that accompanied the exhibition can be found at Exhibition explanatory book

Educational workshops run at An Lanntair Gallery in conjunction with Grounded can be viewed here and here.

Joe’s educational video of me talking about the exhibition can be viewed here.

Photos of the Glasgow opening event are here. Glasgow workshops, talks and exhibition details are here. And the Digital Resources pages of the blog for further information are here and here.

An interview about my work with journalist Jim Gilchrist is on the Struileag website which can be read at Jim Gilchrist’s review or linked to here.

A review by Dr Kate Robinson can be found here. And you can listen to a cut down recording of “In Conversation: Connecting through Culture” at this Vimeo link. (16 mins.) (One of our afternoon events at Glasgow Festival 2014 showing). Or listen to some music from one of our Glasgow afternoon events here.

A radio interview with BBC Radio Scotland Voices of the Commonwealth, which explores some of the concepts behind Grounded, is now available for listening to here.

My artist biography can be linked to here and here and my personal website is here

The introductory page for the blog can be found here.

The Grounded residency diary entries begin here in Scotland and then in Australia here. This is a record of my thoughts whilst gathering the material. These thoughts and images inform the production but are not part of the final exhibition.

Some other sites that link to Grounded can be found here

Funder acknowledgements can be viewed here

At this stage the tour schedule is as follows. There are still also a couple of spaces available for further bookings:
John Mullins Memorial Art Gallery, Dogwood Crossing 24 July 2015 – 8 September 2015
Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts 30 September 2015 – 17 October 2015
Coalface Art Gallery, Moranbah 28 January 2016 – 29 February 2016
David Harvey Sutton Gallery, Cloncurry 15 March 2016 – 30 April 2016
Texas Regional Gallery 28 May 2016 – 9 July 2016
Gympie Regional Gallery 23 August 2016 – 29 September 2016
Gallery 107 Dalby 14 October 2016 – 8 November 2016
Tableland Regional Art Gallery, Atherton 14 March 2017 – 23 April 2017
Mundubbera Regional Art Gallery 5th May 2017 – 28th June 2017
Gladstone Regional Art Gallery 20 July to 9 September 2017

Grounded opening night in Brisbane

We had around 200 people for the opening night in Brisbane – open in Brisbane until 17 October (Mon-Fri 9am to 5pm; Sat 10am to 4pm). What a lovely night it was. Wangkangurru Elder Don Rowlands, and his wife Lyn were flown in from Birdsville / Wirrarri by Flying Arts Alliance. Grace Grace, member for Brisbane Central, was also there to talk, as did Stephen, the CEO of Flying Arts. Flying Arts and the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts did a wonderful job of setting up the show. Thank you to Chrissy, Derek, Greg and Geoffrey for taking these photos of the night.

Brisbane is the second venue in a tour of Grounded to 12 galleries in Australia by Flying Arts Alliance Inc. (The current touring schedule is at the end of this post). The accompanying photography masterclass in Brisbane is on Sunday 11 October (bookable through Flying Arts Alliance ).

You can link to information about the exhibition at these links: Introductory panel in English and Introductory panel in Gaelic.

For those new to the blog, the Grounded exhibition, a commission by Glasgow Life for Festival 2014 XX Commonwealth Games, has also shown since at An Lanntair Art Gallery in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, as a partner event at Hebtember Festival.

Feedback on the Glasgow Festival 2014, XX Commonwealth Games exhibition can be linked to here.

The Colour of Language arts educational project came out of Grounded’s showing at An Lanntair in Stornoway, Scotland. The Colour of Language frieze is growing and now almost big enough to cover a wall at An Lanntair Gallery in Stornoway, with the latest additions by some children from Hazelwood North school in Gippsland, Australia. If you are interested in joining in you can contact me through this blog here.

The story of my time in jail in Alice Springs, subsequent lack of conviction in court, and implications of this story for the local Aboriginal population, can be linked to here. Then here for the court process following arrest. And a response to the Alice Springs jail post by Professor Smith can be found here.

Three audiovisuals that were part of Grounded, (Wadlu-gnana; Freumhaichte; Who Cares for Country) can be watched here

The book that accompanied the exhibition can be found at Exhibition explanatory book

Educational workshops run at An Lanntair Gallery in conjunction with Grounded can be viewed here and here.

Joe’s educational video of me talking about the exhibition can be viewed here.

Photos of the Glasgow opening event are here. Glasgow workshops, talks and exhibition details are here. And the Digital Resources pages of the blog for further information are here and here.

An interview about my work with journalist Jim Gilchrist is on the Struileag website which can be read at Jim Gilchrist’s review or linked to here.

A review by Dr Kate Robinson can be found here. And you can listen to a cut down recording of “In Conversation: Connecting through Culture” at this Vimeo link. (16 mins.) (One of our afternoon events at Glasgow Festival 2014 showing). Or listen to some music from one of our Glasgow afternoon events here.

A radio interview with BBC Radio Scotland Voices of the Commonwealth, which explores some of the concepts behind Grounded, is now available for listening to here.

My artist biography can be linked to here and here and my personal website is here

The introductory page for the blog can be found here.

The Grounded residency diary entries begin here in Scotland and then in Australia here. This is a record of my thoughts whilst gathering the material. These thoughts and images inform the production but are not part of the final exhibition.

Some other sites that link to Grounded can be found here

Funder acknowledgements can be viewed here

At this stage the tour schedule is as follows. There are still also a couple of spaces available for further bookings:
John Mullins Memorial Art Gallery, Dogwood Crossing 24 July 2015 – 8 September 2015
Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts 30 September 2015 – 17 October 2015
Coalface Art Gallery, Moranbah 28 January 2016 – 29 February 2016
David Harvey Sutton Gallery, Cloncurry 15 March 2016 – 30 April 2016
Texas Regional Gallery 28 May 2016 – 9 July 2016
Gympie Regional Gallery 23 August 2016 – 29 September 2016
Gallery 107 Dalby 14 October 2016 – 8 November 2016
Tableland Regional Art Gallery, Atherton 14 March 2017 – 23 April 2017
Mundubbera Regional Art Gallery 5th May 2017 – 28th June 2017
Gladstone Regional Art Gallery 20 July to 9 September 2017

Grounded opening in Brisbane 30 September 2015

Grounded_Invitation

If you are in the Brisbane area we are delighted to be able to invite you to the opening of Grounded I Freumhaichte I Wadlu-gnana at Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts on Wednesday 30 September, 2015 at 6pm. Please RSVP here if you are able to come.

Brisbane is the second venue in a tour of Grounded to 12 galleries in Australia by Flying Arts Alliance Inc. The exhibition is open in Brisbane until 17 October (Mon-Fri 9am to 5pm; Sat 10am to 4pm). The accompanying photography masterclass in Brisbane is on Sunday 11 October (bookable through Flying Arts Alliance ).

You can link to information about the exhibition at these links: Introductory panel in English and Introductory panel in Gaelic.

For those new to the blog, the Grounded exhibition, a commission by Glasgow Life for Festival 2014 XX Commonwealth Games, has also shown since at An Lanntair Art Gallery in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, as a partner event at Hebtember Festival.

The Colour of Language arts educational project came out of Grounded’s showing at An Lanntair in Stornoway, Scotland. The Colour of Language frieze is growing and now almost big enough to cover a wall at An Lanntair Gallery in Stornoway, with the latest additions by some children from Hazelwood North school in Gippsland, Australia. If you are interested in joining in you can contact me through this blog here.

Feedback on the Glasgow Festival 2014, XX Commonwealth Games exhibition can be linked to here.

The story of my time in jail in Alice Springs, subsequent lack of conviction in court, and implications of this story for the local Aboriginal population, can be linked to here. Then here for the court process following arrest. And a response to the Alice Springs jail post by Professor Smith can be found here.

Three audiovisuals that were part of Grounded, (Wadlu-gnana; Freumhaichte; Who Cares for Country) can be watched here

The book that accompanied the exhibition can be found at Exhibition explanatory book

Educational workshops run at An Lanntair Gallery in conjunction with Grounded can be viewed here and here.

Joe’s educational video of me talking about the exhibition can be viewed here.

Photos of the Glasgow opening event are here. Glasgow workshops, talks and exhibition details are here. And the Digital Resources pages of the blog for further information are here and here.

An interview about my work with journalist Jim Gilchrist is on the Struileag website which can be read at Jim Gilchrist’s review or linked to here.

A review by Dr Kate Robinson can be found here. And you can listen to a cut down recording of “In Conversation: Connecting through Culture” at this Vimeo link. (16 mins.) (One of our afternoon events at Glasgow Festival 2014 showing). Or listen to some music from one of our Glasgow afternoon events here.

A radio interview with BBC Radio Scotland Voices of the Commonwealth, which explores some of the concepts behind Grounded, is now available for listening to here.

My artist biography can be linked to here and here and my personal website is here

The introductory page for the blog can be found here.

The Grounded residency diary entries begin here in Scotland and then in Australia here. This is a record of my thoughts whilst gathering the material. These thoughts and images inform the production but are not part of the final exhibition.

Some other sites that link to Grounded can be found here

Funder acknowledgements can be viewed here

Grounded begins its Australia tour

We had a lovely first night of the Australia tour of Grounded – thank you Flying Arts Alliance and John Mullins Memorial Art Gallery. The exhibition is open in Miles, Queensland from 24 July to 8 September.  The accompanying 1-day Masterclass was lots of fun. A great group of enthusiastic photographers from the surrounding properties and nearby towns were a real pleasure to work with. The exhibition opens next at Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts in Brisbane, opening 30 September (to 17 October). The accompanying masterclass in Brisbane is on Sunday 11 October (bookable through Flying Arts Alliance ).

australia

Jim Crombie, an Elder of Wangkangurru country. He was born here, beside a sacred fish hole. Kunmurri, the Serpent, lives in the fish hole and protects the fish. When the Two Boys from the Thutirla Pula story arrived at Ngalpura-ngura (the Fish Hole), they had a corroboree where they confirmed the places and names and set laws and songs for the country. The serpent was invited to stay.

5B Canon MacQueen

Canon Angus MacQueen with his cat, Mizzy. Alongside her brother Fionn, (named after one of the great guardians of the Celtic people), the cats watch over Canon MacQueen in his retirement. Canon MacQueen is strongly connected with his Gaelic heritage. He says of the Gaelic language, whoever invented it must have been sitting on a hillside watching the ocean and the birds.

For those new to the blog, the Grounded exhibition, a commission by Glasgow Life for Festival 2014 XX Commonwealth Games, has also shown since at An Lanntair Art Gallery in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, as a partner event at Hebtember Festival.

Feedback on the Glasgow Festival 2014, XX Commonwealth Games exhibition can be linked to here.

Three audiovisuals that were part of Grounded, (Wadlu-gnana; Freumhaichte; Who Cares for Country) can be watched here

The book that accompanied the exhibition can be found at Exhibition explanatory book

You can also link to information about the exhibition at these links: Introductory panel in English and Introductory panel in Gaelic.

Educational workshops run at An Lanntair Gallery in conjunction with Grounded can be viewed here and here.

The Colour of Language frieze is growing and now almost big enough to cover a wall at An Lanntair Gallery in Stornoway, with the latest additions by some children from Hazelwood North school in Gippsland, Australia. The Colour of Language arts educational project came out of Grounded’s showing at An Lanntair in Stornoway, Scotland. If you are interested in joining in you can contact me through this blog here.

Joe’s educational video of me talking about the exhibition can be viewed here.

Photos of the Glasgow opening event are here. Glasgow workshops, talks and exhibition details are here. And the Digital Resources pages of the blog for further information are here and here.

An interview about my work with journalist Jim Gilchrist is on the Struileag website which can be read at Jim Gilchrist’s review or linked to here. And a response to the Alice Springs jail post by Professor Smith can be found here. A review by Dr Kate Robinson can be found here. And you can listen to a cut down recording of “In Conversation: Connecting through Culture” at this Vimeo link. (16 mins.) (One of our afternoon events at Glasgow Festival 2014 showing). Or listen to some music from one of our Glasgow afternoon events here.

A radio interview with BBC Radio Scotland Voices of the Commonwealth, which explores some of the concepts behind Grounded, is now available for listening to here.

My artist biography can be linked to here and here and my personal website is here

The introductory page for the blog can be found here.

The Grounded residency diary entries begin here in Scotland and then in Australia here. This is a record of my thoughts whilst gathering the material. These thoughts and images inform the production but are not part of the final exhibition.

Some other sites that link to Grounded can be found here

Funder acknowledgements can be viewed here

Grounded starts its Australian tour

Arriving at the Gaelic Cultural Space with the photos

Arriving at the Gaelic Cultural Space with the photos

It seems such a long time since we unpacked the photos for Festival 2014, Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, but it is very exciting that the photos have made it to Australia with the wonderful support of Flying Arts Alliance to produce the exhibition again here. The launch is at John Mullins Memorial Art Gallery in Miles, Queensland, opening 24 July to 8 September, with an accompanying 1-day Masterclass on 25 July. Coming next to Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts in Brisbane opening 30 September at 6pm (to 17 October).

big-red-simpson-desert-munga-thirri-national-park2

Munga-Thirri (Simpson Desert)

seaweed-harvest

Lewis on Isle of Lewis; seaweed harvest

For those new to the blog, the Grounded exhibition, a commission by Glasgow Life for Festival 2014 XX Commonwealth Games, has also shown since at An Lanntair Art Gallery in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, as a partner event at Hebtember Festival.

Feedback on the Glasgow Festival 2014, XX Commonwealth Games exhibition can be linked to here.

Three audiovisuals that were part of Grounded, (Wadlu-gnana; Freumhaichte; Who Cares for Country) can be watched here

The book that accompanied the exhibition can be found at Exhibition explanatory book

You can also link to information about the exhibition at these links: Introductory panel in English and Introductory panel in Gaelic.

Educational workshops run at An Lanntair Gallery in conjunction with Grounded can be viewed here and here.

The Colour of Language frieze is growing and now almost big enough to cover a wall at An Lanntair Gallery in Stornoway, with the latest additions by some children from Hazelwood North school in Gippsland, Australia. The Colour of Language arts educational project came out of Grounded’s showing at An Lanntair in Stornoway, Scotland. If you are interested in joining in you can contact me through this blog here.

Joe’s educational video of me talking about the exhibition can be viewed here.

Photos of the Glasgow opening event are here. Glasgow workshops, talks and exhibition details are here. And the Digital Resources pages of the blog for further information are here and here.

An interview about my work with journalist Jim Gilchrist is on the Struileag website which can be read at Jim Gilchrist’s review or linked to here. And a response to the Alice Springs jail post by Professor Smith can be found here. A review by Dr Kate Robinson can be found here. And you can listen to a cut down recording of “In Conversation: Connecting through Culture” at this Vimeo link. (16 mins.) (One of our afternoon events at Glasgow Festival 2014 showing). Or listen to some music from one of our Glasgow afternoon events here.

A radio interview with BBC Radio Scotland Voices of the Commonwealth, which explores some of the concepts behind Grounded, is now available for listening to here.

My artist biography can be linked to here and here and my personal website is here

The introductory page for the blog can be found here.

The Grounded residency diary entries begin here in Scotland and then in Australia here. This is a record of my thoughts whilst gathering the material. These thoughts and images inform the production but are not part of the final exhibition.

Some other sites that link to Grounded can be found here

Funder acknowledgements can be viewed here

Day 29, The Importance of Belonging for Personal Wellbeing

grass-plains-australia

21 August 2013

I drive the kangaroo marathon to Barcaldine again today. I have learned to drive after 8am and return before 5pm to avoid the chance of meeting one of these great animals head on. I scan the far horizon to the sides of the road, not just for the kangaroos, but also the emus that can appear from nowhere and dart out in front of the car.

But in the middle of the day the biggest problem is the carcasses that litter the road; the ones not yet pulled to the side that can appear too suddenly from under the vehicle ahead.

I arrive in Barcaldine and make my way back to the now familiar Red Shed. It is a warm and homely welcome that I get on meeting the team again.

Darryl shows me his painting of the Southern Cross and Rainbow Serpent. Rings of dots, to represent the waterholes that the Rainbow Serpent has created, are in the position of the constellation of the Southern Cross. The Rainbow Serpent is spiritual to Aboriginal people. It is the creator of the waterholes and rivers and land formations of Australia.

“I like being on country”, he says. “I’d feel weird if I wasn’t”. On country, he explains, means being on the land that you are from, where you have been brought up. If you are off country you know that you are on other people’s land.

Darryl explains how the Iningai people of this area were slaughtered, and if they weren’t slaughtered they were moved onto the missions, like Cherbourg nearer the coast. It affects him daily, he says. He still thinks about it. “But we are still here”, he says, “strains of us”.

I learn a lot more of the Native Title Claim by the Iningai, and of what it is to live as a Bidjara Person in Western Queensland, as people generously share their thoughts and stories for the sound recordings I am gathering.

I leave feeling confused by the details of the Iningai claim on land that is currently under Bidjara custodianship, but understand that my confusion reflects an existing confusion resulting from historical removal of people from their land.

As Donna tells me, “I thought I was Bidjara but my family has told me I am Iningai. We have to find out who is the rightful owner of the land. Perhaps some Iningai escaped from the massacre in the cave. There’s a lot of Bidjara around and we thought there were no Iningai, but now I’ve been told I’m Iningai and we don’t know anything about ourselves. Thinking I was Bidjara and being told I was Iningai, I was confused. It took me forty-one years to work out who I am and then they tell me I’m a completely different tribe. You just don’t know who you are. You have to work out who you are to be the person you are.”

(On the Australia Digital Resources Page of the blog I have now added articles on language resources for Central-West Queensland, Iningai Keeping Place and Searching for the lost Iningai)

 

 

Day28, The swag

stockman swag australia aboriginal

Jack

20 August 2013

I meet with Jack this morning, at his pensioner unit near the hospital, which he keeps in perfect, sparkling order. The front door is open awaiting my arrival. His movements are slow and gentle as he comes to greet me; his eyes are kind.

Jack worked all his life with the stations, like many of the Aboriginal men: as stockman, drover, horse breaker, horse tailing hand, and camp cook. He tells me stories of droving the cattle from Alexander Station in the Northern territory; his longest journey to the Cooper Country was 19 weeks away. They covered 8 – 10 miles a day, resting when the cattle needed to rest, before they reached the small creeks and plentiful feed of the Cooper Country. On a night watch Jack would ride around singing or whistling to prevent any dozing cattle from taking fright and causing a rush.

But when the trucks came in, many drovers lost their jobs; and with the helicopters, motorbikes and 4WDs for mustering, many of the horse workers and horses were also lost. Jack tells me of the time they led the horses to the meat works, gathering more along route, so that by the time they got to the meat works they had eleven hundred head of horses.

He gets up from his chair and signals me to follow. Opening the wardrobe, his neatly rolled swag is revealed, still lying there.

Day 27, Consequences of a massacre; And a rodeo

rodeo stockman horses australia

16 August 2013

I am perched on the patchwork quilt that covers my little bed, the Calico curtains tied up in a knot to calm their mad flapping in the breeze. The wooden veranda doors are pinned back and I look past my verandah to the latticework and a dusty street beyond. My portable air conditioner hums, cooling the room that sweats under its tin roof despite the hot breeze flowing through. Everything has the feeling of being coated in a layer of dust; even the air has a certain gritty quality. Something in the environment does seem to leave a vague gloss of chaos over how events evolve here, but most of it does seem to happen in its own way, and after various incarnations of how an outcome might be reached. I follow these threads to wherever they might lead. Right now, I am preparing for some photography workshops I am running here as part of the residency, which has been achieved by bringing together many organisations to help fund it.

In the afternoon I meet with Tony Weldon, custodian of the Longreach area. Tony was brought up on a sheep and cattle station west of Longreach. He left home at 14 to work on stations, doing fencing, ringing and droving before leaving the bush to work for Telstra.

Tony tells me of how a map was once drawn, marking Longreach as Iningai territory, but no Iningai people have been found in and around the town. He talks of the massacre in the area that wiped out the Iningai population, and subsequent removal of the bones to a museum in England. At least the bones have at last been returned to their keeping place in Longreach.

As Custodian of Iningai country, Tony is involved with Aboriginal health and housing, and helping the young people into the workforce. Aboriginal people can be shy and find it hard to communicate, he says. If there is any disturbance and police are involved, the police might get angry at these young people for not talking, and want to lock them up. Tony intervenes to help the young people communicate. But there isn’t much trouble, he says.

He tells me he was brought up in a white man’s world. “I’m lucky”, he says. “It is easier for me to fit in. For others who have come from smaller communities to the town it is much harder for them to adapt. But they are talented and strong”.

I am saddened that the adaptation seems to only be one way; that these young Aboriginal people must adapt to the dominant culture; this just seems to be taken for granted, like a rosy woolen blanket obscuring other possibilities. I can’t help but feel that the dominant culture has much to learn from the Aboriginal communities. But such an idea seems lost in the heat and the history and the marching forwards of every-day life.

Like Tony, many Aboriginal men worked as drovers and stockmen in their adaptation to colonisation, riding the horses with the cattle. And tonight is my opportunity to see these skills in action as the rodeo is in town.

The oval in Longreach is small but that is good as we can get up close. Around the oval are stalls of salty popcorn; dazzling red and green, iced slushies; hot dogs and burgers. A bar area is sectioned off from the ring. Along one side of the oval is a raised terrace of wooden benches. Many bring their own fold up chairs and sit pressed up against the oval fence – a solid wooden base supporting wires, widely spread for visibility, but strong and thick. Country music is jangling loudly through big black speakers. And the air… dust settles on everything.

Beside the stalls where the horses and bulls are kept, cowboys in dusty jeans and battered hats lean against the fence of the floodlit oval, or swing their legs over to perch on the wires, intently cupping their face in their hands for a better view, spurs hooked along in the wire. Under a shimmer of dust their faces are swarthy and strong, fixed with a determined set or breaking into a sudden grin. They stand straight and lithe, these men of the horses.

I never really expected to enjoy the rodeo but I do. The music matches the fierce energy of the horse and rider as they burst through the metal gate and into the ring; bucking horses and bucking bulls, men thrown and rolling away from reared hind legs, the clowns who rush to the ring to divert a bull away from a fallen rider, dust flying, and Lockie, the compère, calling the women in the crowds to fever pitch over the masculinity of these rugged young men.

I move around the fence for different vantage points and settle after a while opposite the gates from which the riders burst forth. A sudden pull of a rope from inside of the ring releases the riders, and is quickly followed by a leap back over the fence by the puller of the rope.

I am positioned next to an elderly couple with their fold up chairs pressed tight against the fence, when an almighty horse comes hurtling through the gate and gallops like the wind in a dead straight line towards us. Looking through a telephoto lens it is not long before I am running up the bank in the opposite direction, and I am alarmed to see this old couple do not even flinch as the horse crashes its sweating bulk into the fence in front of them, the rider thrown from its back. He grabs the fence to gracefully somersault and twist his body, avoiding the laps of the elderly couple, who are still sitting smiling in their seats. A great pile of dust comes over the fence with him and covers my camera bag, abandoned at the scene, in deep red.

I stay until midnight.

(For more reference links visit the Australia Digital Resources page of the blog)

Day 26, Culture and Country in Barcaldine

Barcaldine art redshed

Janeece in the orange grove of the Red Shed, Barcaldine

14 August 2013

I am in my hire car, driving the straight and dusty road to Barcaldine in Bidjara Country. The sun bounces and spits on the asphalt and the air is heavy with the rich decaying carcasses of kangaroos that lie at twenty-yard intervals the entire 110km section of the road I travel. They have been pulled to the side, or still lie heaped in the middle of the road, to appear suddenly from under the high clearance of the vehicle in front.

I am going to meet Janeece, Gerry, Phyllis and others at the Red Shed where paintings are being prepared for the My Earth Calls art exhibition at Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach. Aboriginal artists from around Western Queensland are exhibiting.

I receive a warm welcome at The Shed. Doors on one side open onto an orange grove, and on the other to a sheltered patio, set up with a few plastic chairs and a table for smoko and cups of tea. Parrots haggle over the juicy flowers in a nearby tree. Inside the shed benches are strewn with paints and canvases. There is an air of quiet industry.

Phyllis, an Elder of Bidjara Country, shows me her painting.

“It represents the night sky and spirituality and the earth. The dots around the outside represent our mob trying to reach their spirituality”.

Phyllis shows me a face that has emerged in the middle of the painting.

“I left the centre of the painting bare, and as I was taking photos of my work to document the progress, there was a face appeared in there. It used to be the face of my cousin. I haven’t worked the painting at all. I didn’t put the face there, but it changed to the face of my mother. Now it has changed again to the face of an unknown young girl. We believe strongly in our spirituality and in our ancestors. They let us know things, or that they are with us. If we look after our land and our law and heritage, they will look after us and guide us.”

I look at the painting and very clearly the beautiful face of a young girl emerges at the very heart of the work.

Phyllis tells me about the strict traditional laws; affecting everything from the relations between boys and girls, to the details of how food was distributed, and what animal or part of each animal could be eaten, by whom. The rules around food ensured the survival of all the species.

Phyllis believes the loss of laws through non-Aboriginal intervention has led to loss of respect and contributes to the problems seen today in drug and alcohol abuse. “The people have forgotten their roots”, she says. “It worked for thousands of years”.

“But we still teach our children the bush medicines and bush foods. We share this knowledge orally only to the people we want to know. There are people who will take advantage and exploit the knowledge; people who aren’t Australian Aboriginal are selling traditional medicines for big money”.

It seems a recurring theme that I am told by the elders and Aboriginal people I meet; that one way to solve the social problems that exist today in Australian Aboriginal communities, the poor health and the early deaths, might be to take the people back and re-teach them traditional ways, about culture and living on their land; to undo the shame that was taught by the banning of language and traditional ways, and replace it with a very worthy pride.

Gerry tells me of the mining threats to the Diamantina, Cooper Creek and Georgina Rivers of the Lake Eyre river systems and the government support for fracking in the area, revoking the Wild Rivers protection. I think how destructive that will be, not just for the fragile environment, but also for any progress in the wellbeing of the Aboriginal people of the area, if progress is to come from re-teaching traditional ways and living on the land.

Gerry, Phyllis and I pile into the car to travel out to some country. They take me to the place they bring the children to teach them about their heritage and show me the traditional tree-branch shelters the children have built. Phyllis bends down to pick up flints from ancient stone tools, which are lying everywhere on the sand; and they lead me to a scar tree, an old tree with a scar where a Coolamon (a carrying vessel) has been carved from the bark.

I stand for a while to listen to the landscape. The creeks are dry; gum leaves rustle in the breeze. And there is a complete stillness in the air that hangs behind the sighing trees like a mantle to another world, somewhere between the stark blue sky and the silvery green scrub.

(I have added some more reference links to the Australia Digital Resources page of the blog)