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.

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