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 ....

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Good News Bad news

Arrived ! Warburton road house is just outside the town and will be our home from home for the next ten days. Went into town and met Gary Proctor, energetic coordinator of Warburton Arts Project and supporter on the ground up here of this project. A tour of the glass workshop, the art studio and Tjulyuru Gallery where we will be having an exhibition with the women we have come so far to meet and work with. Good news, bad news. Bad news is they are all out bush already for the rest of the week on the first of a series of camps designed to bring troubled young people back into culture away from the influence of town. A three year programme has just begun - Kurrurnpa Tjanyarltu - Waking up the Spirit. Good news - we have been invited to join them out there. Sujora briefly makes contact with Tjingapa Davies, Nora Holland and Lizzy Holland outside the store, they have come into town to stock up and are heading out to Kunurpural Rock Hole again. Tjingapa is nursing three little pups, not allowed to the camp she says sadly, hoping her friend will babysit them properly whilst she is away. Come too, come too they say. We reassess our plans and make a quick decision to go out there next morning.

roadhouse flags

Nalda logs on

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Holly writes:

Our project began, as many do, with a conversation over coffee, this one at a café in South Fremantle, Western Australia. Sujora approached me as she wanted to expand the project she was working on with senior Ngaanyatjarra women artists by including contemporary non indigenous textile/visual art practitioners who make connections to land in complementary ways. For us three Southern women artists subsequently invited to join the Warntu project, the contact with indigenous women artists still strongly connected to country - and in their country - was a fabulous opportunity to broaden our practices too.
Much to-ing and fro-ing and hard work and support letters from good people lead to a successful grant application to the Department of Culture and the Arts in WA for an artists’ exchange based around a women artists bush camp in Ngaanyatjarra land near Warburton. With financial support and good wishes from all involved, Nalda, Bronwyn, Sujora and I set off in August 2009 in two 4 wheel drive vehicles full of camping gear, plus all the possible materials we thought we might want and indispensable items like dye pots, rusty tins, a Ngaanyatjarra phrase book, bones, binoculars, sunscreen and layers of warm clothes for cold desert nights. A rattling caravanserai of pilgrim/artists.

The rain followed us for two days as the highway rolled on through Gimlet, Quandong and Jam woodland, bright yellows of Acacia and Cassia lined our path and once again I wondered why I hadn’t been this way for so long, the country just opens up and spreads out all around, the sense of space is exhilarating. The smoke stack of the gold smelter outside Kalgoorlie and the road trains taking huge bits of machinery to the mines reminded us what is fuelling all the action out here. First night at The Miners Rest in Kal where breakfast is served from 4 am and for $15 you can pack yourself a four course lunch to take away.

After Laverton we take the dirt road heading North East and the country changes again, vegetation thinning out, we see camels, a dingo, and tall pale roos quite unlike the thickly furred greys we have in the South. Their roadside bones call for a collecting stop and right where we pull over is a nice group of dye mushrooms – Pisolithus albicans – which go in the bag too. We picnic at the first breakaway to savour being in proper red dirt country. There’s a strong sun and a thin wind, the scattered rocks take on that clarity of colour that never lasts if you take them home. We have begun our adventure.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Lala West from Warburton speaks :
" we've already been doing warntu work in Warburton. Last year we had an exhibition in Perth at the Homes a Court Gallery, and also we are thinking of having another exhibition, probably here (in Warburton) and then in Perth together with the Perth artists that came to Warburton to meet us. We are working with the Warburton Art Project and we had Sujora helping us. We like doing that warntu work, and we are happy to join up with those ladies from Perth."

Nalda speaks:
As the visitors to Warburton our first consideration was in listening to people speaking Ngaanyatjarra language, it is the first language in country here.

Warntu = blanket , skin , clothes.
Ngurra = home, camp.

continues below ....

Mirrka = food
Marlu wipu = kangaroo tail (to eat)
Waru = fire
Warta = tree
Tjanpi = grass
Kapi = water
Yilkari = sky
Bira = moon
Ngirrnga = morning star (Venus , Innana )
Yewah = yes
Careful writings were made to absorb a growing list.
The original plans which were more or less in consideration changed on our arrival so we quickly reappraised the current situation and fitted in as best we could. (One needs to be flexible when distances are considerable)
By day three of our plan we were camped with a group of anangu (people) some distance from the community. (40kms)
The Anangu had commitments which needed their time so we, the visitors got straight into doing what we are best at.. making art in the bush.
We had wood, water and plenty of leaf material along with any amount of wool, silk and found objects (bones).
On the first afternoon we walked over to the women’s camp and enjoyed a meeting. Underfoot was pure red sand with spinifex, cotton bush, quartz flakes and by now remnants of tail bones from the many cooked tails which had been eaten. Story telling wires were scattered here and there, as story telling was part of the camp purpose. So much energy imbibed in a length of fencing wire bent at one end.
The following day Lala and Carole visited our camp for a cup of tea , curious as to what we were doing. By now the plant dyes were developing strong colours. Lala told Holly that mirrpa, a gall that grows on a eucalypt and is a major food source contains dye colour in its outer skin.
Because of the weather we were able to continue our activities into the night. Dead mulga branches were abundant so it was a treat to sit around and wrap, bind, stitch and look at the night sky.
We watched the evening and morning stars, the Seven Sisters, the moon, the milky way, the Southern Cross. It was a world above our heads… mungangka the night sky.
Long before we even left to journey to meet the women we had thought the making of string was away to connect us all. Sujora took lengths of string we had made to the women some months back and they responded.
So stringmaking beneath the stars was both an ancient and contemporary occupation.
On the third day we did the collaborative drawing …..

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The purpose of this site is to share a cross cultural collaboration between a group of indigenous and non indigenous textile artists.

We, that is those involved, proposed that we would find a common ground to both share a process and create individual works. The outcomes would be shown at Tjulyuru Arts Centre in Warburton Ranges in April 2010 and following at Holmes a’Court Gallery in Perth June 2010.

A group of senior Ngaatjatjarra women involved in the Warburton Arts Projects recently completed a series of felts based on paintings they had done previously. The paintings, belonging in the Warburton Ranges community’s own collection, were used as references for the felts. These felts were exhibited at Holmes a Court gallery in Perth 2008. The felting co-ordinator was Sujora Conrad .and this new project has grown from conversations between Sujora, the senior women and three senior Perth based makers.

The women spent time together recently at a camp organised for another purpose forty kms east of Warburton Ranges and a further few days within the community sharing ideas and outcomes in this ongoing process.

Warburton Ranges is 1600 kms from Perth into the Western Desert, that is east by north east of Perth , is approx. 500 kms west of Uluru.

The drive to Warburton takes one through Kalgoorlie ,Laverton and the a long stretch of the Great Central Road for the final 600 kms. There is a single roadhouse enroute and in Warburton apart from the small serviced community there is a roadhouse that offers accomadation.

The Warburton Arts Project was formed in 1989 (then called the Warburton Acrylic Collection) and from then on supported the resident artists by purchasing their paintings for a community owned collection.

Today this collection represents one of the finest Western Desert collections in Australia and certainly the most important collection owned by a community. There are superb canvases which are regularly exhibited within the Tjulyuru Arts Centre In Warburton Ranges. Tjulyuru Arts Centre itself is a purpose designed venue and visitors can always be assured of seeing the finest Western Desert paintings shown there. Warburton Arts Project now managed by Gary Proctor is currently negotiating a selection of the works to be shown in China later this year.

The women involved in “A lot of women making different things” as Tjingapa Davies described it , are Carole Holland, Elizabeth Holland, Lala West, Tjingapa Davies, Nora Holland,, Christine West, Anna Porter Holly Story, Bronwyn Goss. Nalda Searles and co-ordinator Sujora Conrad.

Starting with hand twined string reaching across country, culture and connecting the hands and minds of these malers.

Monday, September 7, 2009