Friday, May 21, 2010

Tjulyuru Cultural Centre

In mid April we set out again for a return journey to Warburton Ranges in the Western Desert.
The Tjulyuru Gallery was the venue for The Stringmakers, our shared exhibition.
The large felts were placed on the walls, they are stunning and the women are very proud of them. congratulations also to Sujora who co-ordinated the making of them. An ernomous task for her.
Meanwhile Holly, Bron and myself had earlier sent out pieces out on the fortnightly truck.
We then travelled independantly stopping at the only roadhouse on the Great Central Road for an overnighter, Tjukuyirli, where the stars and the moon glowed down on us.
Camels ambling through the spinifex, occasional emus and a few kangaroos (marlu). Plenty of eagles (walaurru), and a bush turkey (kippara). There was plenty to pay attention to, but also one is able to think inwardly along that road. It is just a red ribbon for 1000kms. Dust rises and blinds one when a vehicles pass at speed. Otherwise it can be quite a dreamy (and dangerous) journey

Once we were safely arrived we then spent several days putting our works up and all was ready to go for a splending opening there within the community. The wonderful Lala and Roasalie did the honours.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Four woman traveling

It has been several months since our journey to the Western Desert. Much has happened and we are now almost ready to embark on the return journey.
The women at Warburton have completed their felts and each of us here in the city has completed works which will be shown altogether at the gallery in Warburton.
In several weeks we will travel the long journey east. Almost 2000 kms away and though the road is familiar it will also be vastly different. Grasses changing colours, late summer dryness, perhaps certain plants blooming along the roadside. The grand awareness of ones physical and mental being responding to unfolding panorama.
I have written a piece of prose titled Four woman traveling. It has been printed onto 2m. lengths of plant dyed silk.
Here are the words.

--- four women gathered together --- the four women --- gathered together to speak --- of making string --- of joining strings --- after speaking --- they travelled east --- they travelled east --- to sit at the campfire --- of their sisters --- the campfire of their sisters --- was at Kunupurul rock hole --- women and men and children --- were camped --- at Kunupurul rock hole ------ those four women from the west --- camped alongside their sisters at Kunupurul --- their sisters --- cooked kangaroo tail in the campfire --- they cooked many kangaroo tails --- there at Kunupurul--- at their campfire --- those four women --- put leaves and bark to boil --- leaves and bark --- holding the rich colours of the land --- came into the boiling water --- the women wrapped and bound --- wools and silks --- placing them into the boiling dye water ---those bundles --- took up the rich colours ---shadows of the leaves and bark --- remained on the fabrics --- after --- the women carried the dye waters ---- to a shelter --- they carried charcoal and brushes --- with the dye waters--- beneath the shelter --- white paper was laid onto the earth --- long white paper --- was laid onto the earth --- Sisters and all gathered --- sitting at the papers edge --- many women gathered --- at the edge of the white paper --- they bound sticks and grass --- to fashion brushes --- drawing with the brushes --- using those dye waters and charcoal --- the women --- drew the land onto the paper --- slowly the land --- crept across the paper --- that paper became part of the land --- then all those women --- left the shelter --- left the paper --- for the wind to dry their marks --- dried marks speaking of land------ returning to their campfire --- sleeping and waking --- with the Seven Sisters --- Seven Sisters --- rising and setting low --- Kunkurangkalpa setting low--- Venus rising after sunset --- Venus setting at dawn --- Ngruung setting at dawn --- those women watched --- the stars rising and setting --- after sunrise --- they found empty mipurr beneath the trees --- men and women had eaten mipurr --- beneath the trees --- they discarded --- mipurr shells on the ground ------ the young ones --- cleaned out Kunupurul rock hole --- the rock hole was cleaned --- water was seeping through the earth --- the women walked --- to look at the water --- coming through the earth --- in Kunupurul rock hole --- they returned to their campfire--- after four days at Kunupurul --- they travelled to Warburton --- here all the women gathered again --- they gathered --- in the art centre to speak --- the long drawing was placed --- on the floor --- it was rolled out --- to be flat on the floor --- all the marks became stories --- trees --- people --- land --- words all clear on the long paper --- all the women looked closely --- at the paper --- they looked closely --- they enjoyed the stories --- they placed felts made earlier --- on the floor --- to show the travellers --- coloured felts telling stories --- Tjukuurpa talking from the felts ------ travelling west --- the four women --- returned to their homes --- saying goodbye to their sisters --- they travelled --- a long way to their homes ---later they will return --- to meet up again --- back in the west --- those four women --- are thinking --- about that Kunupurul camp --- thinking about that land --- day and night --- making those thoughts - into stories --- in many ways ---N S--2010

Thursday, October 8, 2009

a communal drawing beneath the shelter

There was a strong sou-westerly blowing on day three of the camp and we planned to set up to do a communal work on paper involving 12 women.We made a collection of giant brushes using sticks and grass bundles bound together the previous night. This allowed for free marking with plant dyes and charcoal.

Seven metres of a 10m x 150 cm roll of quality paper was laid on the ground on a tarp. We had use of a tarp shade, which though was low to the ground kept the wind at bay and sun off us.We placed tubs of plant dye, black and sepia ink sticks of soft charcoal and our giant brushes and the papers edge in preparation.When Tjingapa, Carole, Anna, Nora, Myrtle, Lala, Bronwyn, Lizzie, Holly, Sujora and Nalda were gathered around the paper edge the mark making began. The grass brushes were dipped into the tubs of dye and ink and expressive marks were made freely. Using soft charcoal dipped in dye and ink and then dragged across the paper line was made. Images appeared, as energy transfixed vigorous line. The white expanse was being transformed into a narrative of 12 stories each running into the other. Colours floated and co mingled creating a common surface.

Words appeared, kali, mipurri, Inma Kungkurakalpa the Seven sisters appeared at one end and further as a group of minymas dancing, Ngurrng, the morning star, warta, delicate trees, yapu, rocky outcrops wipu, a kangaroo tail,

We rolled out another 2 metres of the paper and that was further covered with images and marks.

A quiet descended as we took in what the past hour or so had given us as a group working as individuals in a communal way. The earthy colour range resembled the land surrounding us as the dyes had come straight from it.They were subtle and muted giving emphasis to the marks and forms those echoeing the vegetation, around us.

Several days later in Warburton we rolled the the work out inside the art workshop, we were all there and I think moved by the beauty of such a map.

More to come on this event.....

Monday, September 21, 2009


Nalda and I have both noticed the insect galls on the small Eucalyptus trees that occurr patchily around us. She says the grub that lives inside them is collected for bush tucker. Underneath some trees there are numbers of scattered opened galls.The insides are smooth voids unlike the rough textured exteriors. They are beautiful objects and we gather some to take back to camp. Wind pruned leaves are going in the dyepot, the galls are very numerous on the branches and we strip them off and lay them on the ground for further exploration.

Corymbia opaca, Muur-muur, Tjuta.
Galls on C. opaca. Miipurr.

Early next morning Lizzy and Nora come visiting. They are looking after two energetic small children and need cups of tea. They have a look at our dyeing efforts and Lizzy points to the galls - don't throw them away, they have colour in them - and so they do, copious amounts of rich chestnut brown. Later, back at the roadhouse base camp I find Miipurr in Nalda's big Western Desert languages dictionary and they are the galls on Eucalyptus opaca which has recently been renamed as a bloodwood - Corymbia opaca. They are also known as bloodwood apples and the grub/edible part is called nguku nguku or yangyura. Things that are useful are given lots of names.

Miipurr in the dye pot.

As a dye it is quite fugitive though - washing away on wool to a pale fawn. I think perhaps there is a lot of tannin in there which is good to know too as its useful for mordanting cellulose fibres. More tests with some mordants are needed. The colour is spectacularly rich and beautiful though as a pigment on rag paper - which we discover when we use it for our big drawing the next day.

the bush studio

The women have business to attend to and we get back to our camp which is soon a bush studio. The pots and billies come out, the fire is stoked up and we start sampling colours from the land around us and from gatherings along the journey. Wool yarn, wool tops, strips of old blanket, spinifex bundles, bones, silk, linen and muslin all form the ground for our colour and texture experiments.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

the camp at Kunupurul Rock Hole

Kunupurul Rock Hole is about 15 km from Warburton. Its been chosen because its the country of an older man who remembers taking part in dancing and ceremony here when he was a child, the dance ground is still there, and a rock hole with permanent water. Both need "waking up" and this place has been chosen to begin the 3 year Kurrurnpa Tjanyarltu (Waking up the Spirit) program to help young people in trouble to find their way again. When we arrive its been going for 3 days already and there are groups of tents and tarps scattered through the spinifex and hugging the few solitary trees and shrubs. The ubiquitous landcruiser is much in evidence too. David Brooks, anthropologist and instigator of the program points us in the direction of a flattish area and we gingerly make our way through the spinifex trying to avoid tyre spiking sticks and soft red dirt. But its a relief to be getting going at last, and we are all looking forward to a few days under the open sky.

Nalda's set up. The scar in the mulga tree is where a piece has been removed to make a womera - spear thrower

camp kitchen

Tim gets the firewood pile going

After setting up we are invited to go over to Lala West's camp. She is busy making mulga wood animals, boomerangs and dishes which will be decorated with burned marks using story wires - punu work. The punu man is due to visit from Alice Springs and buy up big. Everyone is getting a good stock ready to cash in on his visit. Lala is incredibly deft with a very sharp hatchet and the chips fly as a boomerang appears from a curved piece someone has cut for her. The bush camp is a good opportunity to get some fresh mulga wood and get carving.

This afternoon is dance practise and we all walk over to the dance ground to watch. The young boys and girls are getting painted up - girls with black and white paint and boys with red ochre - half hidden behind brush "wings". Its very hot in the full sun but the excitement is overwhelming. Accompanied by singing and rythm sticks the boys then the girls are led out by the senior men and women to practise their steps, they are shy but very proud and excited. This is what the camp is all about.

Watching the dance

marlu wipu - a kangaroo tale

Outside the store people are sitting about with their shopping in large brown paper bags waiting for rides home or back to Kunapurul Rock Hole. (The Warburton store doesn't use plastic bags anymore.) Lots of these bags have long brown objects sticking up out of them, I am surprised to see that baguettes are so popular in Warburton. Suddenly a bag falls over and the "baguette" falls out with a clunk. Its frozen, and furry, and its a kangaroo tail ....