Fuaigh

fuaighbrochure_9-sep2016

Following on from the themes in Grounded, welcome to our Ceilidh!
Fuaigh is being shown on Monday 10 October, 8.30pm at Tramway Arts Centre, 25 Albert Drive, Glasgow. Fuaigh is part of National Theatre of Scotland’s Home Away Festival, and is being shown alongside a week of performances from Chicago, New Delhi, Brisbane, Dundee, Tomintoul and Glenlivet, Glasgow, Jamaica, the World Wide Web and Rio de Janeiro.
 

“Fuaigh centres around a traditional Gaelic Ceilidh. Using evocative song and dance, combined with striking visuals and a compelling narrative, the show will explore what happens when you leave behind your homeland and sail away to the metropolis. Fuaigh is an exciting new Gaelic theatre experience, promising a unique night at the theatre. Devised by an artistic team including celebrated singer and musician Gillebride McMillan, playwright and poet Rona MacDonald, visual artist and photographer Judith Parrott and director and writer John Binnie”.

Fuaigh is performed in Gaelic and English.

Our show is presented directly after a Corroboree devised by my colleague Fred Leone of Brisbane. Fred is from the Garawa and Butchella Nations of Queensland.
Bookings can be made online at:  tramway.org or here or by phone on 0845 330 3501
The show is also presented in South Uist on Saturday 1 October and again in Barra on Sat 15 October as part of The Mod.

Supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
In association with British Council and in partnership with Glasgow Life. With funding also from National Theatre Scotland, Creative Scotland, Bord na Gaidhlig, Traditional Arts Fund, Gaelic Books Council, and The Mod.

Meanwhile, Grounded is still touring with Flying Arts Alliance in Australia. Currently at Gympie Regional Gallery 23 August 2016 – 29 September 2016.

Then:
Gallery 107 Dalby 9 January – 23 February 2017
Goondiwindi Art Space – 11 March – 22 April, 2017
Mundubbera Regional Art Gallery 5th May 2017 – 28th June 2017
Gladstone Regional Art Gallery 22 July to 26 August, 2017
Tableland Regional Art Gallery, Atherton Dec’17 – Jan ‘18

You can book Grounded, and other great shows here: http://flyingarts.org.au/exhibitions/exhibitions-by-request/

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.

You can link to information about the exhibition at these links: Introductory panel in Englishand 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 whilst on artist residency for Grounded, the 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

The Colour of Language and the Grounded exhibition tour in Australia

draft swatches 19 March 2015 blog

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.

The children from Gippsland have looked at trees, shrubs, flowers and earth and painted the colours that they saw and experienced. The words were translated into local Gunnai/Kurnai language by Doris Paton, and the colour swatches have been added by Joe to the growing Scottish Gaelic / Australian Aboriginal frieze

If you are connected to a school that might be interested in joining, please do contact me via this blog here.

Grounded is soon to start its growing Australian tour, hosted by Flying Arts Alliance, with the first opening at Dogwood Crossing, Miles on 24 July 2015 and then at Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brisbane on 30 September 2015 before continuing on a tour of regional Queensland and beyond.

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.

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

In Conversation: Connecting through Culture

"In Conversation, Connecting through Culture", one of our afternoon events.

“In Conversation, Connecting through Culture”, one of our afternoon events.

As well as the great music during the afternoon sessions at the Grounded exhibition in Glasgow, we had this conversation (around the peats) about language, chaired by Rona MacDonald, the Gaelic Arts producer at Glasgow Life, and with special guest Craig Duggan, from BBC Wales, talking about Welsh language. Rona begins with a short Gaelic introduction, and we continue the conversation in English. You can listen to a cut down recording of the conversation at this Vimeo link. (16 mins.)

The Grounded exhibition is showing next at An Lanntair Art Gallery in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, from 13 September to 11 October, a partner event at Hebtember Festival. We are heading to the Outer Hebrides tomorrow so will be offline for a couple of weeks.

If you are new to the blog, the Grounded residency diary entries and photographs begin here in Scotland and then in Australia here. The book that accompanied the exhibition can be found at Exhibition explanatory book

Three audiovisuals that were part of Grounded, and the promotional audiovisual, can be watched here

The introductory page for the blog can be found here. Feedback on the Glasgow exhibition can be linked to 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 linked to here. And a response to the Alice Springs jail post by Professor Smith can be found here. A BBC Radio Scotland interview can be found here. A review by Dr Kate Robinson can be found here.

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

More than a song

I am inserting in here a link to a song and video by Dol Eoin MacKinnon. Dol Eoin sang this song at one of our afternoon sessions during the Grounded exhibition in Glasgow. I really hope you enjoy and admire the song and video as much as I do. Only 13 days to go now until Scotland votes on its future.

Dol Eoin’s next short film includes a feature on Grounded. Looking forward to being able to share that with you too.

The Grounded exhibition is showing next at An Lanntair Art Gallery in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, from 13 September to 11 October, a partner event at Hebtember Festival.

If you are new to the blog, the Grounded residency diary entries and photographs begin here in Scotland and then in Australia here. The book that accompanied the exhibition can be found at Exhibition explanatory book

Three audiovisuals that were part of Grounded, and the promotional audiovisual, can be watched here

An interview about my work with journalist Jim Gilchrist is on the Struileag website which can be linked to here. And a response to the Alice Springs jail post by Professor Smith can be found here. A BBC Radio Scotland interview can be found here. A review by Dr Kate Robinson can be found here. The introductory page for the blog can be found here. Feedback on the Glasgow exhibition can be linked to 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.

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

Day 42, Lionel Possum and preserving language and culture

Pitjantjatjara-bible-alice-springs

Kanytjupai and the Pitjantjatjara bible translation

20 September

I am introduced to Lionel Possum today. Lionel is the son of Clifford Possum who is considered one of Australia’s most renowned Aboriginal artists. Lionel has inherited the right to his father’s stories and his dot work has the same precision and uniformity as that of his father.

Lionel is working on a painting, Worm Dreaming. He tells me if I go out at night I can hear the whistle of the worms, digging under the earth. We sit on the concrete in the shade of some corrugated tin with his painting spread out on the ground, its precisely placed, deep ochre red and yellow dots, set beside rich dark black. He is a strong man, like his Daddy, he tells me, painting the Dreaming.

My other meeting today is with Kanytjupai. Kanytjupai is Pitjantjatjara from Pukatja (Ernabella) but lives now at a hostel in Alice Springs for her care. She is working as part of a team translating the bible into Pitjantjatjara, and has been working on this for many years. She says it will be for many years more too.

Kanytjupai shows me a copy of this amazing work, and the beautiful paintings it contains. Zebras and Kangaroos drink side by side at a waterhole with emus grazing nearby. Rabbits and koalas and snakes move through the trees and the grass, and on the horizon, the silhouette of a young Aboriginal boy feeds what appears to be a gazelle. The whole image has a beautiful golden water-colour wash.

It is important to translate the bible into language, as this has been one way that language has survived. Ironically the missionaries who introduced the bibles were also responsible for much of the banning of cultural practices. It is with great resilience that the Aboriginal people have used this medium as a means of preserving what they can of culture and language.

(The Digital Resources Australia Page of the blog has 2 new links – one on Lionel Possum and an ABC article about Australian Aboriginal youngsters retracing the steps of their ancestors)

Day 41, Anthwerrke (Emily Gap), Eastern MacDonnells

emily-gap-macdonnell-ranges-alice-springs

Anthwerrke, Eastern MacDonnells

18 September 2013

I have a very special morning today, meeting with Mark Inkamala and Baydon, two senior lawmen of Western Arrarnta country.

There is much they are unable to tell me of storylines related to their clan, as it is sacred information held only within the clan, but I am very grateful for what they do share.

In the same way, the basement of the Strehlow Museum where Mark now works relates to secret men’s business and ceremony. I am told that up until recently Aboriginal women would not enter even the upstairs of the museum. Much of the collection can only be accessed by the Traditional Aboriginal Custodians.

Some communities in the Northern Territory cannot be visited without a permit. And moving around the community must be done with the guidance of a cultural advisor to prevent accidental entry to sacred or men only sites.

Today Mark and Baydon accompany me out to Anthwerrke (Emily Gap) in the Eastern MacDonnells, Eastern Arrernte country. This site can be visited by the public, though at one time that would not have been possible.

Anthwerrke is the sacred site of Caterpillar Dreaming. Red ochre lined paintings, drawn onto the rocks, mark the significance and the story of this place. It is where the three caterpillar beings of Mparntwe (Alice Springs) originated, the ancestral beings for the Alice Springs area, from whom Aboriginal people conceived in Alice Springs consider themselves descended. The geographical features of the surrounding landscape were formed by the caterpillars as they travelled out from here to the edge of the Simpson Desert.

The sandy riverbed of the red-rock gorge bakes in the sun, cliff edges sharply delineated against a vivid blue sky. White-barked gums grow in the dry, where water must rush in a flood. It is a place of vivid red and white and blue with smatterings of olive green.

Standing on the naked riverbed, in the silence of the gorge, it feels like I can sink a little further into the ground. As the warmth of the sand moves upwards through the soles of my feet my body relaxes.

No-one speaks. The air is thick with silence, like some communal sigh from the watchful painting on the rock walls. The chaos of Alice Springs is miles away. That feeling I always have in Alice of being displaced from where I thought I was, and having no sense of where I am going, has simply vanished. Here we can feel grounded. Here it is as though the rocks are waiting patiently for some line of connection to past and future to re-gather its strength and for the chaos to settle to peace.

(A link to an article about The Dreaming is now up on the Australia Digital Resources page of the blog)

Day 39, Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa)

st-beads

Anne’s painted seed necklaces

16 September 2013

This morning we discover that the great heavy truck I am using to get to Santa Teresa has a flat tyre. With tyre pressures sitting at around 20 it is little wonder, says the garage. Some great fortune has flattened the tyre before I got on the 100km of unsealed road. Not somewhere I want to break down on my own, with no mobile reception. No wonder the jolly truck has been so hard to handle.

So with tyres pumped up to 40, and a request for an oil and water check too, I head southeast on my adventure to Santa Teresa, in Eastern Arrernte country. I feel pea-sized in such a vehicle, but I get the measure of it and slip into the gentle rhythm of the road.

The road is covered in fine dust that slips and turns with the wheels, and where the wind has blown through, it is ruts and bumps and holes. On the horizon the red rock of the worn old hills is covered with the olive of dusty trees and the combination of the two colours gives a definite ancient painterly purple to their appearance.

From a practical non-driver I am turning into quite a pro, but I still feel a sense of relief to pull safely into the Catholic mission.The first sight is the tall, straight cross on the hill, and the gleaming white of the church, almost Aegean against the stark blue of the sky. But its setting amidst a spread of lightly-coloured, concrete block and tin-roofed bungalows, with that ever-present fine coating of dust, keeps it solidly in Australia. Low wire-mesh fences set out plot boundaries to the street but the red earth continues on both sides of the fence; perhaps some grass struggles to grow on the inside. Lean dogs run excitedly in their packs and bark at the car wheels. A large sign beckons me, “Welcome to Ltyentye Apurte”.

Ltyentye Apurte is a sacred rainmaking site. It is also the site of the Santa Teresa mission, which was built in 1953. It is a community of 600 people, on the western edge of the Simpson Desert.

I have brought lunch with me for the ladies; breads and salads and roasted chicken. I top it up with a bit more ham and cheese from the local shop.

I have been invited to talk with the ladies at the Healing Centre, a beautiful relaxing space hung with bright silk scarves they have painted, and workbenches scattered with trinkets, boxes and crosses, all painted with precision and dexterous skill in traditional designs of vibrant colour.The painting connects the ladies in cultural ways to the land. The artwork can also be bought from the Santa Teresa Spirituality Centre (Facebook page) and from the Ltyentye Apurte Keringke Arts Centre (This site has the Keringke Story about the kangaroo that came in the Dreamtime from the South East).

I am told the room I am in at the Healing Centre used to be a dormitory where the children, who had been taken away from their mothers, slept. One lady tells me she grew up here, crying and crying for her mother. But she’s happy now, she tells me, with new family around her and her painting to do.

I spend a lot of time talking with Mary Therese Mulladad, a Ngangkere (traditional healer).

Mary uses her hands to tell her where healing is needed for patients. She tells me her skills come from the land and her father passed on the knowledge to her.

Mary performs smoking ceremonies at the traditional healing centre using local bush medicine. Houses are also smoked when loved ones are lost to make the spirit rest in peace.

“If a little baby is sleeping and a loud noise happens nearby, the baby’s spirit might hide and make the baby sick”, she tells me. Mary can see if the baby has no spirit and put the spirit back into the body to make the baby well again.

Mary creates a smoking and healing ceremony for me, laying her peaceful hands on my forehead and brushing the smoke from the arrethe medicine plant towards me. She says it will help me be strong in the work I am doing and I am grateful for her counsel.

After lunch and talking with the ladies, I am taken into the church. It is an amazing sight inside. The walls are covered in beautiful murals depicting Aboriginal scenes; Jesus, with his distinctive long hair, as an Aboriginal man rising from the water, or sitting at the corroboree. A traditional Aboriginal carrying bowl, a coolamon, acts as the font in the church.

I am not allowed to take photos inside the church so it is up to your mind’s eye to visualise this scene.

(Some new links are up on the Australia Digital Resources page of the blog relating to Santa Teresa and Australian Aboriginal medicine men and women)

Day 38, Ntaria and a footprint in the rock

Ntaria-hermannsburg-alice-springs

Mark with the Creation Story footprint or Jesus’ footprint

15 September 2013

Things unfold slowly in Alice Springs. There’s a kind of chaos that seems to seep into every crevice it can find, turning things around at the last minute to leave me floundering and confused. Change tumbles and roles and clatters like marbles, scattering the plans of the day. I feel ungrounded, tied down to nothing. It is a difficult environment in which to work when time is short, though perhaps it is possible to find a rhythm if you live here, ducking and weaving with the flow.

But today has a picture to it. We are taking Christopher’s huge Toyota 4WD on a journey, over the bridge and along the dry Todd River that runs through Alice. Six of us squeeze into the old truck but it’s a comfortable, companionable ride heading out of town along the MacDonnell Range; 130km to Ntaria, the Lutheran mission of Hermannsburg.

The Hermannsburg mission was founded by Lutheran missionaries from Germany in 1877. It continued until 1982 when the land was returned to the Aboriginal people.

Although the missionaries to Australia are accused of banning traditional practices and mixing different language groups together, causing loss of identity and belonging, there is also the viewpoint that the Australian Aboriginal people were already dispossessed, raped and murdered by white settlers and governments who made it impossible for them to continue in their culture, and that without the missionaries the lives of the Aboriginal people could have been even worse. Indeed, in Central Australia, the Arrarnta were denied access to their waterholes and were being shot and poisoned by the pastoralists, when the Lutheran Mission persuaded them to give up their nomadic lifestyle and live in the mission. This had the dual effect of helping Arrarnta survive but at the same time lose much of the essence of their culture and traditional material.

Now there are many outstations around Ntaria, small communities serviced by Ntaria, where a few families live in close connection with the natural environment. Outstations are set up to bring Aboriginal people closer to their traditional lifestyles.

We are going to Ntaria today for a choir day, organised by choirmaster David, and two other choirs. Pitjantjatjara people’s Utju choir, and Asante Sana from Alice Springs are joining the local Western Arrarnta, Ntaria (Hermannsburg) Ladies Choir to sing first in the Lutheran church, then in the shade of the community’s open basketball court, and finally down by the red rock of the gorge.

German buildings of thick, whitewashed stone make up the old part of Ntaria. Inside the stone the space is bare and cool, protected from the burning blue sun with logs laid across the ceiling and thatch above. These buildings are neatly placed at spaced intervals across the red dust of the courtyards, and punctuated with gleaming white bark of the eucalypt trees that offer an occasional, scanty olive-shade. The community where people live lies beyond the fence, a low spread of tin-roof, concrete brick bungalows common to the communities.

We enter the church, a hubbub of chatter and children and lone dogs that wander in the door for a look and to sniff the cooler air. There is a warm three-dimensionality to the sounds of the church. When the singing starts it is a treat to hear the music of Arrarnta language stitching together the old Lutheran songs.

The second part of the day is planned for the shelter of the basketball court, a wide, open concrete floor with a flat tin roof for shade. The microphones are set up at one end, the backdrop of open country behind, and we all sit in groups around the floor. But hot winds are sandblasting the community today and we are assaulted by scouring dust, thrust and swirled in our eyes and faces, ripping across the concrete floor, on which we are all seated, in red waves of sand and grit.

The subdued shade of the tin shelter, the blazing blue of the heat outside, bouncing off the ground, the ripping wind and dust, all make for a challenging photographic and sound recording experience, but the singing goes bravely on, and the smiles are broad and lift our spirits beyond the superficial challenges of the day. It is decided, however, that singing at the gorge will not be practicable.

Mark Inkamala is senior lawman of Western Arrarnta country. He came with us from Alice Springs for the day to be with his family here and join the festivities. Mark has told me about Jesus’ footprint in the rocks near Ntaria and wants to show me the spot, so before we head back to Alice at the end of the day, we take a drive to the red rocks on the sandy riverbed. The footprint is also part of a traditional Creation story, the first man to set foot on earth. Today Mark refers to it as Jesus’ footprint.

It is dark by the time we are all piling back into the car for the journey home and we chat and laugh as we drive, one eye always on the lookout for wild horses or camels or cattle or kangaroos; the others on the road.

Back at my studio space I can never decide what must come first – food or drink to stave the dryness of my mouth after a long hot day, or a shower to scrape off the layers of dust caked into sun cream, or a phone call home.

(Some new links are up at the Australia Digital resources page of the blog, relating to Aboriginal land rights, Australian Bureaus of Statistics on Language, an ABC story on Ntaria Aboriginal Ladies Choir, a historical article on the Hermannsburg mission, and some cultural stories from the West MacDonnell ranges)

Day 30, More tales of resilience and courage

winton-grass-plains-australia-Queensland

23 August 2013

I am driving to Winton today; the long road, taught as stretched elastic ready to fire backwards in my face. I follow the high oblong box of a road train shimmering on the horizon ahead; in my side vision, the dull blue-grey of the grasslands sweeping outwards.

Winton is the first town I arrive at, two hours down the road, and I check into my hotel, climbing the stairs to a narrow corridor with closed doors disappearing to the distance down either side, and my room number stuck to the front of one. Each room has doors leading onto a communal concrete verandah which overlooks the car park, the sounds of the TV and the bar drifting up from below. The room has that same pink smell of all these country motels; mixed with the cigarette ash of the ashtrays outside.

I am here to run some photography workshops but have also been put in touch with Pearl, by my friends in Barcaldine.

When I arrive at Pearl’s home, her paintings are turned to the wall. Aboriginal paintings are based on stories and images centered on the Dreaming and as such are deeply significant and spiritual. I respect that she has let me into her home despite obviously being unsure of who I am and what I am about. We talk for a short while before she turns the paintings around to show me, and I am grateful for this action.

Pearl prefers that I do not record our conversation. I listen instead to her stories, and hear once more the tales of injustice, the hurt and the damage that have been done. After a couple of hours she says, “I wish you had recorded. It is the first time I have had the opportunity to tell a white person”.

Pearl then decides to invite Jocelyn, her mother, down to talk to me. Jocelyn’s mother and father were married before they were even born. They were selected to be married, because their bloodline relates them to the Kings and Queens of their country. Jocelyn’s mother, Alice Wilson, was involved with the big Land Rights marches in the 1960’s, and she received the Order of Australia medal for her work on behalf of Aboriginal people.

Jocylen tells me her language groups are Murrawarri, Kurawarri and Pitapita. But Jocelyn was never allowed to speak her language nor ever taught it. To teach language and culture to children resulted in having them forcibly removed from the family and sent to live at a mission. “Growing up was tough”, she says, “because of the racism”. “We weren’t allowed to dance”. She was taught to survive ‘by being the white way’.

Jocelyn bought a taxi and became a taxi driver to support her children She also completed an Aboriginal cultural course in Geelong and spent much time researching the stories and ways of life that should have been passed onto her. Jocelyn and Pearl share aspects of these for the sound recordings I gather.

With the sinking of the sun, I finally head on my way. I am full of respect for the strength and courage of Pearl and Jocelyn, and so many others I have met like them on this journey; And with sadness for what they have endured.

I hope with each sharing of the sadness, the weight can somehow, in some small way, be reduced; the apparent cloak of invisibility surrounding this sadness when one lives a day-to-day life on the affluent east coat of Australia, removed; and respect for Australian Aboriginal people and their rich culture increased.

(A link to information about Aboriginal Art has been added to the Australia Digital Resources page of the blog)

Day 25, The strength to turn life around through cultural pride

Koondi (throwing sticks) from Donna's ancestry, displayed on the clay pan beside an ancient gibber circle.

Koondi (throwing sticks) from Donna and Lyndall’s Wangkangurru ancestry, displayed on the clay pan beside an ancient gibber circle.

13 August 2013

The kites are circling in the sky, layering on the up-draught, black against stark blue, the highest fading to a prick of pale grey. But on the ground around my feet they are all large shadows spinning out like dancers on the ropes of a fairground maypole; or like shadows of a mobile by low candlelight, on a child’s bedroom wall.

I am walking to Lyndall’s place; a long hot walk, no shade on the wide empty streets, and no pedestrians. No lack though of inflated long-distance trucks and dusty 4WD’s with their enormous touring trailers.

Jacinta greets me at the fly-screen door, with the shining smile and swiftly alternating mixture of curiosity and shyness of a three-year-old. We all three have a coffee, sitting in the shade on the steps, the heat of the day building around us. Lyndall’s brothers and cousins are traveling from all around for the Rodeo in town this weekend, so the time is not right for talking about her stories and paintings. But she introduces me to a fascinating array of rodeo magazines and videos in preparation for what I should expect at the rodeo in town on Friday. Jacinta and I draw horses on the whitewashed wall. My first rodeo! I feel more prepared now.

I leave Lyndall at just past noon, and the day is pressing in with heavy, hot layers, matting my hair with dust. I am wearing long sleeves and loose trousers to protect my skin but I have changed my mind on this and head home to dress in something cooler before meeting Donna this afternoon.

Donna is the daughter of Don Rowlands, Wangkangurru Elder of the Simpson Desert. My time in Longreach is en route to spending time with Don in Birdsville.

Donna works at the visitor information centre in town. She is bright and strong and her smile belies the tales she is telling of how hard it is to stay strong as an Aboriginal person in a largely Anglo-Saxon town.

As a young child growing up in Birdsville it was not so cool to learn about heritage and listen to the knowledge of the Wangkangurru. And at boarding school, Donna talks of the racial attacks. She tells me how hurt she used to be by the name-calling and stone throwing, but how she would never talk about it because of the shame she felt.

Now she is older and with children herself, she realizes the richness of her cultural heritage; the opportunities she missed not going more often into the desert. Now she knows and teaches her children, in the same way as her father taught her.

My daughter has also been bullied in recent times, she says. “You have to be proud of who you are”, Donna tells her. “You have to be proud of your skin and what your roots are”.

“She has bounced back”, Donna says. “She is strong. My daughter is a tall, proud, Indigenous girl”. I met Donna’s daughter. What a beautiful girl she is.

Donna is very proud of her father and what he has done to pass on the traditional knowledge. She tells me it was when the land title was finally given back to the Wangkangurru people of the Simpson Desert, that Don decided it was vital to teach the importance of having the culture within themselves. She talks of how there was only Don and a few others who remained; who still knew the language and stories, and how he realized he had to act before it was all lost.

“My father took me to a massacre sight in the desert. The skeletons were still there”, she says, “and it hit me from that day on how important it was; how my father felt being one of the last traditional owners”. Donna also realized then that they had to do something about it.

Donna has been through a nervous breakdown to get to where she is today, and her daughter has suffered in the same way too. “I knew I had to reach inside myself and trust in my culture and roots”, Donna says. “My dad and my mum make me the proudest daughter in the world; knowing how proud my dad is of his culture makes me proud to be a part of that. It just makes me feel so strong.”

What beautiful, strong, proud people this family is today, with so much to offer the world. I deeply appreciate the generous sharing of their story.

(There are some links to Wangkangurru information on the Australia Digital Resources page of the blog)