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ArnhembrAnd

Light - Stone - Fire Alexander Boynes - David Leece - Mandy Martin Au s t r a l i a N Ga l l e r i e s


ARNHEMBRAND Light - Stone - Fire Alexander Boynes - David Leece - Mandy Martin AU S T R A L I A N GA L L E R I E S

Contents Introduction by Hamish Gurrgurrku

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Arnhembrand: Living on Heathly Country at Space gallery

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Contributors7 Par tners8 Acknowlegements9 Re-Branding by William L. Fox

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Bininj Artists Stories

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The Arnhembrand Project by Mandy Mar tin

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Light-Stone-Fire. Alexander Boynes, David Leece and Mandy Mar tin: Ar tworks and commentary

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Hamish Gurrgurrku | Introduction Keep following old generations. Keep looking and remember, you know, and telling our people in young generations, you know, keep learning, keep coming. Art is coming when the old people is painting. Keep walking in hot suns and the bushes, look around in the hollow logs and barks and spirit mimih. Cut him off like that, bark cooking in the fires, you know, cut him off, and keep moving, you know, and pick it up and carry on, keep walking. All this is my Dreamings you know, telling stories in secret by that art… Sometimes it’s plain – keep working stories, you know… We strong, Aboriginals, passing knowledge for our cultures, keep working. That’s the stories, you know. We like to make some things to make money, you know, and keep working, telling more stories about that how we work. When we get old we pass it on, we pass it on. Our kids, you know, and many more generations and many more parents… Keep painting and more stories coming. We’re living in this community in Aboriginal peoples. Sometimes the old people telling us some really old stories, you know, in wayback, in the beginning. Sometimes now we put it into other ways, Aboriginal people, in new styles. We still have stories, like old people. So put stories, old people always draw like this, you know. We are new, so we put things like other picture, good things to good styles, good picture, coming new styles, our ways. We keeping that story in our history and we pass it on to young generations, you know. Pass it on in old and new. Hamish Gurrgurrku is a renowned artist who lives in Maningrida NT. His Country is Mumeka, his language Kuninjku and his moiety is Yirridjdja (Bangardi).

Left: Hamish Gurrgurrku, Arnhembrand video (still) 2016 SD video Videography Hugo Sharp www.arnhembrand.com

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Arnhembrand: Living on Healthy Country Macquarie Group Space gallery 9 - 19 Elizabeth Street Sydney NSW 2000 Opening 6pm 6 July - 26 July 2017 Open to the public Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am - 2pm Arnhembrand supported by Macquarie Group, aimed to raise national and global awareness of the work undertaken by the Djelk Indigenous communities living in west Arnhem Land to preserve their unique culture and ecology. It was an independent art, science and stories project with the Karrkad Kanjdji Trust www.karrkad-kanjdji.org.au/ and Djelk clans which used new mediums and technologies to highlight the critical relationship that the Djelk clans have with their land and to tell their positive story to a wider audience in fresh and exciting ways. The Arnhembrand collection includes paintings, video works and a commissioned woven mat created by a diverse group of Bininj artists and in addition artworks by Balanda artists; Mandy Martin, David Leece and Alexander Boynes. The purchase of the Bininj artwork for the archive and book royalties have contributed income for the community. The archive, consisting of stories collected through digital, filmed, oral, written and painted testimony, provides a clear and important record of all aspects of the project. The archive will be acquired by the Center for Art + Environment, Nevada Museum of Art. This is one of few institutions that collects art and environmental projects from all over the world and maintains this material through the work of dedicated librarians and staff for posterity. Fur ther reading www.arnhembrand.com Griffith Review Edition 56: Millenials Strike Back “Caring for Country” Billy Griffiths “Field to palette - Dialogues on Soil and Art” Alex Toland. CRC Press / Bocan Raton FL. August 2017 “Sketches in the sands of time” Libby Robin, Mike Smith, Mandy Mar tin, Guy Fitzhardinge

Left: Mandy Martin Savannah Burning 2016 pigment, acrylic and oil on linen 75 x 75 cm

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Laura Boynes Broken Song Line (Still) 2017 HD digital video Performers: Daniel Bonson - voice and interactive ipad artwork, Matihew Djipurrtjun - dance, Colin Wilson - didgeridoo. Videographers: Alexander Boynes and Hugo Sharp


Contributors Daniel Bonson - Artist, Ranger, Performer

Maisie Mirinwarnga - Weaver

Lexie Bonson - Performer

Dave Moore - Ranger

Raylene Bonson - Artist

Fran Murrell - Writer

Alexander Boynes - Artist, Curator

Shane Nabegeyo - Performer

Laura Boynes - Dancer, Choreographer, Dance Film-maker

Ivan Namarnyilk - Artist, Ranger

Jethro Brian - Ranger

Temika Namudaj - Artist

Kyais Brian - Ranger

Lyn Narlbidgrrka - Artist

Simon Brown - Ranger

Leila Nimbadja - Landowner, Horticulturalist

Bob Burruwal - Senior MAC artist

Jimima Pascoe - Performer

Brendon Cameron - Performer, Ranger

Jimmy Pascoe - Performer

Mathias Cameron - Performer

Marcus Pascoe - Performer

Gloreen Campion - Artist

Proji Pascoe - Performer

Melissa Campion - Singer

Renee Pascoe - Performer

Vera Cameron - Weaver

Darryl Redford - Ranger

Angus Darcey - Ranger

David Rickards - Project Partner

Thomas Dhabural - Performer

Sally Rickards - Project Partner

Matihew Djipurrtjun - Performer

Marcus Rostron - Performance

Ashleen Dudango - Artist

Tara Rostron - Ranger

Bjorn Everts - CEO of the Karrkad-Kanjdji Trust

Sirius Rostron - Performer

Guy Fitzhardinge - Pastoralist, Chair of the Karrkad-Kanjdji Trust

Victor Rostron - Ranger

William L. Fox - Writer, Director of the Center for Art + Environment

Hugo Sharp - Photographer, Videographer, Web Designer

Pat Gamanangga - Weaver

Henry Skerrit - Art Historian, Curator

Billy Griffiths - Writer, Historian

David Taylor - Photographer, Project Partner

Rosina Gunjarrwanga - Artist

Jake Taylor - Ranger

Hamish Gurrgurrku - Artist

Jason Walarri - Performer

Jake Jibabun - Ranger

Lawrence Watson - Ranger

Timothy James Johnson - Artist

Moses Watson - Ranger

Romeo Lane - Ranger

Colin Wilson - Performer

Jacinta Lami - Artist

Greg Wilson - Artist, Ranger

David Leece - Artist, Architect

John Woinarski - Scientist, Writer

Susan Marawarr - Artist

Deborah Wurrkidj - Artist

Mandy Martin - Artist, Adjunct Professor at the Fenner School of

Jennifer Wurrkidj - Artist

Environment and Society

Lena Yarinkura - Artist

John Mawurndjul - Artist

Tina Yegane - Ranger

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Alexander Boynes Woomera Story (still) 2017 HD video projection on installation, cotton and steel Performer: Brendon Ashley. Accompanying work: ‘Mat’ by Vera Cameron and Masie Mirinwarnga, natural and synthetic fibres approx 200 x 200 cm, round.

Partners Warwick Evans

Mandy Martin

Guy Fitzhardinge and Thring Pastoral Company

Alexander Boynes

David Leece and Fran Murrell

Laura Boynes

Billard Leece Partners and design team

Bill Fox

David Taylor

John Woinarski

Sally and David Rickards

Billy Griffiths

Ian Wenham and Peak Investment Associates

Henry Skerritt

Macquarie Group, including the Macquarie Group Art Collection and

Hugo Sharp Photography

Kris Neill, Helen Burton, Amanda Warwick of

Helen Duncan, Creative Behaviours

Space gallery Macquarie Group.

Steve Packham DIC

Kristen Edmond

Stuart Purves and Australian Galleries

Greg Levy

Center for Art + Environment, Nevada Museum of Art

Michael Silman

Libby Robin


Acknowledgements Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this publication may contain images relating to deceased persons. All names, photos, stories, digital film, oral recordings and artworks are reproduced with signed consents from the participants or their parents in the case of children. Unless otherwise specified all artwork photography is by Alexander Boynes, David Leece, Mandy Martin and Hugo Sharp. We salute the Indigenous Protected Area Program of the Commonwealth of Government’s Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities for its visionary support of the Djelk IPA. The Djelk clans living in Maningrida were fundamental to this project and we thank them for their support. We thank the Northern Land Council for granting permits to visit the Djelk IPA. We thank managers based in Maningrida; Lucy Bond, Natalie Carey and Dominic Nicholls. We thank our host organisation the Karrkad Kanjdji trust, especially Stuart Cowell, Sophie Davidson and Bjorn Everts. We thank all the partners who provided essential financial and in kind support that allowed the Arnhembrand project to proceed.

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William L. Fox | Re-Branding

centre in Maningrida started receiving state funding a decade later, relatively early in the history of art centres across Australia. The majority

It is May, the end of the wet season. The spear grass is six feet tall and ready for burning, by fires carefully worked to fertilise the thin soils, promote new growth, and allow both animals and hunters free passage across the land. At least, those are the traditional rationales; now there is also the need to reduce fuel loads in the face of catastrophic bushfires. Not far away the Liverpool River flows clear over waving strands of grass and through groves of slender gum trees. Henry Skerritt and I approach a deep niche in between two layers of a sandstone formation, lie down on our backs, and wriggle inside. A Rainbow Serpent dances on the rock above us: a vivid living map and myth, a physical and spiritual path. To the left more ancestral beings and symbols painted in red ochre and white kaolin clay march deeper into the niche. Sandwiched in between stone and serpent, Henry and I feel peaceful and secure,

of artists involved with the centre were bush-based, and only occasional visitors to the town. From 1973 through the next twenty years the primary challenge was to negotiate an understanding with Balanda (non-Indigenous people) that Arnhem Land paintings were not just ethnographic artefacts but fine art. Most collectors were primarily focused on the abstract dot paintings from the central desert, then secondarily Arnhem Land work made to the east of Maningrida. And women didn’t really become important to bark painting here until the 1990s. The most accomplished of the artists, such as John Mawurndjul, were very successful and gained international reputations. Among the ironies created by success are that making art absorbs time otherwise spent on hunting and ceremonial practices, thereby taking the artists away from country, and the practice of looking after it, which is the inspiration for the art.

embraced by an ancient order.

Then there’s the issue of the western cultural distractions that money

The images form not merely a strong tradition, but are essential to

successful transfer of Indigenous knowledge to younger generations. And,

survival and the maintenance of regional and local identity. The pigments

finally, there’s the issue of the community art and culture centre coping

used in these paintings contain a high concentration of hematite, which

with an increasing number of artists. All of these foster an appreciation

neither fades nor weathers with time, but instead seeps into and stains

among elders for the conservation of tradition.

the rock. But now, many of these rock panels, which have been painted and re-painted over millennia, are being degraded by feral animals and

brings, such as movies, online games, and drugs, that can disrupt the

Paintings at Maningrida are typically done on bark peeled at eye level

modern fire regimes and are in need of active management.

from Stringybark trees during the wet season and flattened over fire,

The rock art of the stone country, as well as its cultural context, are

cut by elders to make poles. The paintings sold do not carry the exact

inextricably bound to the artworks sold below on the coastal communi-

designs on the barks and poles actually used in ceremonies, but rather

ty which serves as the primary point of contact for tourists to this part

are re-arranged analogues that are safe to share with Balanda. A market

of Arnhem Land. It is these embodied designs that underlie contempo-

has been created here for relatively traditional works painted in a rec-

rary Aboriginal paintings, whether on bark, poles, or canvas. Art not only

ognisable style, most commonly ‘rarrk,’ the systematic and finely brushed

helps create the identity of Aboriginal people in Arnhem Land, but is an

crosshatching executed in ochre colours, a technique at which John

essential element of how non-Indigenous people perceive that identity.

Mawurndjul excels. But it is reductionist to pose tradition and innovation

or are executed on the trunks of trees hollowed by insects and then

as opposites in the social mores of Maningrida, as the two dynamics Art dealings were formalised in 1963 and a community art and culture

work in conjunction with one another in the evolution of art, culture,


and society. Aboriginal art, like Aboriginal culture, has shown itself to

are seeking to broaden the tourism economy, and the sale of art, as a

be evolving and dynamic, absorbing new phenomena into an existing

viable revenue stream in the face of constant public funding cutbacks

cultural landscape. Amidst the array of Dreaming creatures in the rock

even as the costs to maintain their communities rise—costs that are ex-

art on the plateau, there are Macassan praus, x-ray style horses and

acerbated by causes beyond their control, such as climate change. Most

buffaloes, and whitefellas with broad-brimmed hats, smoking pipes and

people in traditional Indigenous communities around the world face this

carrying guns.

challenge, whether it is the Inuit of Nunavut in the Canadian Far North, the islanders of Vanuatu, or the scattered settlements of Arnhem Land.

Aboriginal people across Australia have shared their art with non-Indigenous culture not just because it brings in money to their communities,

The Arnhembrand project was a short-term, independent project which

but because they know we all need to understand what the paintings

made available non-traditional art-making media to a small group of

express: a profound relationship to the world that is beyond the rational

Djelk Rangers and other interested community members. It used art and

and scientific and historical, and one that is based on the deepest empa-

stories to communicate the ways in which they are managing their coun-

thy and reverence for place and life. Aboriginal artists are not proposing

try, including paintings of invasive species, new fire regimes, and changing

that we abandon science or history to parse the world, but that we

climates. As has been proven repeatedly around the world, if you don’t

understand there are other important tools we need if humans are

have a culture of sustainability to underpin the technology of sustaina-

to live well on the planet. We need their traditional knowledge for the

bility, you won’t achieve resilience in the face of change. Your landscape,

survival of all of our societies and culture. The need to counterpoint fact

culture and identity will be destroyed. The Center for Art + Environment

with feeling, science with empathy, is recognised not only by Aboriginal

at the Nevada Museum of Art, which collects the archives from projects

people, but also by scientists in many disciplines, who value the deep

such as this from around the world, is a way of preserving information

environmental knowledge carried by Aboriginal peoples.

about this process and passing it down from generation to generation, and from place to place in order that we might all survive. In a world

The growth of the Aboriginal art industry has been accompanied by a

where it seems that everything will be connected to everything else

boom in the international tourism market, as more people are trave-

within a lifetime, maintaining the news of difference between cultures is

ling to experience and learn from other people and other places. This

essential knowledge that might even enable us all to flourish.

urge, as much an emotional need to re-connect with the world as it is a desire to encounter new intellectual stimuli, is a powerful economic driver. Tourism comprises 40% of the global service trade economy; a billion of us travel for pleasure every year. Cultural tourism makes up 40% of all tourism. Looking at art and heritage sites is a huge part of cultural tourism, and such people tend to spend more money than most other tourists. This helps account for why tours to Uluru and sales of Aboriginal art have been promoted so heavily, and the consequent economic activity soared, in recent decades as the world has become more homogenised. Rural Aboriginal communities and art centres in general

* Sources - see page 48 13


Deborah Wurrkidj | Bush tucker My name is Deborah. I am working on art. I’m going to make Dilly Bag and Woman story. They collecting bush tucker. She’s got some bush potato and yam and blackberry. One woman is carrying dilly bag and we’ll put all the blackberry she’s carrying. And we’ll make fire, we’ll cook some, like raw one and cooked one, they carry. Old people long time ago tell us about story, collecting all the bush tucker story. Grandmother and grandfather we carry on. Still keep going. We’ll remember our bush tucker and sometimes we think like all the English, the Balanda mob. We’re just thinking ‘never’. We’ll keep going. My country, big mob, lots of bush tucker. Sometimes we were collecting wet season time, strawberry and yam. Sometimes we eat English Balanda one, sometimes we can eat bush tucker. We teaching my grandchildren and my son, we’ll carry on. We’ll tell about all the bush tucker from old people time. We’ll tell us. So that’s it. Sometimes we make a fire in the bush so we can be Deborah Wurrkidj Dilly bags and bush tucker 2015 ochre, pigment and acylic on Revere paper 48 x 48 cm

cooking bush tucker, sometimes we go out hunting and camping. We teaching all the children and grandchildren, we show that all the bush tucker. We can make fire and burn it in the oven. So that’s it my story. I was learning it from my grandmother and my grandfather, she told us about her way, Aboriginal culture. And we’ll carry on bush tucker. Jennifer Wurrkidj | Dilly Bag story It used to be the old people, they always carry dilly bag. They went hunting and all the food, like turtle and goanna. There was food and there was carrying. Yam and black plum and bush potato. Maybe eggs for turtle, for emu and magpie goose. Before when he was here, but I don’t know. He’s gone from that cane toad. And wallaby, we don’t eat. Sometime we eat crocodile, sometime not really. But they know, the old people. They was teaching us, you know, remember and thinking. So we’re thinking and drawing like maybe grandmother and grandfather think. And maybe story they remember. That’s why we do this, put picture. Like in old time, old people time.

Jennifer Wurrkidj Dilly bag. 2015 ochre, pigment and acrylic on canvas 75 x 75 cm


Hamish Gurrgurrku | Yabbie Dreaming This one yabbie Dreaming, my one, yabbie. I put in hollow logs, big hollow logs. I draw, bark, canvas, a lot of times we can do it that way, we are thinking you know, to make it. Big mob’s dreaming there. Every night come out from the water hole, that one. In the morning like this we can see him coming in, every night come up from that water to look around, something to eat, little bait, little fish. Sometimes it’s raw and sometimes it’s cooked. We don’t eat. That’s Dreaming that one. I feel connections to yabbie. To not to eat, to not to touch. Like the little painting, the first one that I was painting, it is for all this yabbie, you know, top secret paintings. It’s my Dreaming.

Daniel Bonson | Butterflies and Lily Water Painting This country is freshwater country at Ji-marda outstation, in the billabong. This butterfly it goes in the flower and the grandmother stays in the billabong, old lily Hamish Gurrgurrku Untitled 2015 ochre and acrylic on paper 24 x 24 cm

water. Buffalo damaging the waterhole, pigs too. We need to look after it. That water, it’s my grandmother’s water. She talked to me and told me what to do. And grandfather too.

Daniel Bonson Butterflies and grandmother lily - water 2016 ochre, pigment and acrylic on canvas 48 x 48 cm 15


Raylene Bonson with Deborah Wurrkidj | Mermaid Story Above the sea line near Maningrida are the Djómi freshwater springs, a sacred site. Traditional Owners believe the ancestral Mermaid who lives there creates children. There are water lilies where the mermaids made the creek and fresh water bubbles up through many holes created by the Mermaid. If a woman swims there she will become pregnant. A population boom reportedly occurred after Balanda first settled Maningrida and put in a pipeline from the springs to the town. This story is still very sacred. When Raylene Bonson decided to paint the Mermaid, she asked Deborah Wurrkidj to first paint the outlines because the story belongs to her. In old history, before they had mimih spirit, the other mermaid came in from freshwater mermaid, and they were staying there for years, maybe 100 years, 200 years or 400 years. In olden days the old peoples they used to see her Raylene Bonson Mermaid story 2015 ochre, pigment and acrylic on Revere paper 48 x 48 cm

when she was living there in the water. That’s got two mermaid now: fresh water and salt water. So in my area and that side area we used to go for the fishing, so my Dad used to tell us stories, history stories. He used to tell us ‘you’re not allowed to go down to the water because the mermaid is staying there in waterhole’. That’s a long time ago. So when we used to go hunting before [Deborah: ‘long time ago’] that was alright to us. But when Balanda they used to come for fishing or camping, they could see it come up [‘that lady’], that mermaid. [‘We don’t go to that woman place, we don’t want to go to that hunting place’] We might get lost. Because sometimes there is mermaid there. So I gave Deborah to do my mermaid because I’m not allowed to. If I might make a mermaid, well Deborah might say something to me in our way. Daniel Bonson | Fish nets, pollution and Pelican Fishing boat and plastic, it’s ruining our fish and pelican probably eat all the dead fish. Sometimes they put all the net in the sea and then floating away to the homeland and catching things. All the pelican come, he eat all the barras,

Daniel Bonson Fish nets, pollution and pelican 2016 ochre, pigment and acrylic on canvas 48 x 48 cm

dead from the killing net, and salmon too.


Daniel Bonson | Storm at Mooronga Island I’ll paint those flying fish more, bring them up. They’re flying in the storm. When storms come with really rough sea, we know don’t go – otherwise you’re not coming back. Too many people get lost, I get lost too. We get stuck, motor usually stops. In the old days, they use canoes. Mooronga Island, they got big billabong. Every wet season every flood comes it stays up high. Each storm is kind of like cyclone season. We ship down to Milingimbi. We stay there. My father and my grandson’s father, they’re connected by the songline. So we sing one side of the songline. When we go home, stay there, we feel it, spirit come to us, and then we get old peoples and we hear talk to the spirits. We old now and we can feel it. Raylene Bonson | Fish Trap That’s the fish trap, that’s the stick. Sometimes put that fish trap in that water Daniel Bonson Storm at Mooronga Island 2016 ochre, pigment and acrylic on canvas 75 x 75 cm

and this stick you put it like that, so the fish can go in and don’t come out. So keep it there and we lift the stick up. Sometime crack them head of them fish if they’re alive. Then we finish, put it in the dilly bag, take it home and cook it. Sometimes we roast it. Fish, we roast it. Then we don’t have any sheet to make the bed, sometimes we use this one (pandanus), sit on it, to eat our dinner, in old history.

Raylene Bonson Fish trap 2016 pigment, ochre and acrylic on canvas 48 x 48 cm 17


Greg Wilson | Cane Toad Cane toad, I don’t know his country. He travelled from long way to here in the Northern Territory. With sugar cane or whatever. Maybe even jump in… They came and got rid of all the goanna. Gone, gone now, you can’t find them anymore, not even one. Cane toads they can get to islands, they swim, or jump in a dead tree and float, all the way to the islands there. Milingimbi, they got it there, big mobs there, they float in tree, they swim all the way. You can see them swimming. Last time we went fishing, ‘hey what’s that – cane toad is it – what are you doing there?’ Fish they don’t eat em; they know. They like green frog or proper frog, barramundi like proper frog, green frog, not toad. Frog is a good bait for barra. Makes me sad, ruin my country… If you see em, kill em. Too many. Millions. If there’s toad eggs or tadpoles in the water, they muck it up, you can’t go drink it, you get sick, your guts ache. Wallaby drink he get sick really skinny. Dog, dingo, he get sick skinny. Balanda that brought toads Greg Wilson Cane toad with living Black head python and Goanna (no jo) can’t find em 2015 ochre, pigment and acrylic on Revere paper 24 x 24 cm

here, they should come back and pick it up, take it back where you found it. Greg Wilson | On Mining and Alcohol We got no bar like pub, no beer, no traffic, you know. People happy. Happy on country. Have to stay in country, not town. Oil maybe oil company too, don’t like oil here and gas. We’ve got too many totem here, biggest mob. We saw them cyclone come up here every year, likely every wet season, cyclone don’t come here, they bounce back. We’ve got strong country here, lot of totem, in land and sea. They come here they can sing em, sing that cyclone go away. But if you put big mob oil here and gas, all the totem they got to move away, leave you alone now, all this bloke doing their own thing, leaving alone now forever in top country. Next minute cyclone will come vroom, it come up, crashing all. They trying to do mining here, but no. We don’t like mining. We got food, we got bush-tucker here, we can eat the animal here like buffalo, kangaroo. We don’t like pub here. If they put pub here they too many drunken people hanging around here in the shop, humbug, sick people, fighting, they break your house, all drive around drunk… That’s why we have

Greg Wilson Buffalo coming in floodplain 2015 ochre, pigment and acrylic on Revere paper 24 x 24 cm

to try to grab all the kids, take them out this year, do some fire-break you know, give them matches and all that.


Ivan Namarnyilk | Mission Grass Messing with the Mimih Spirits This one here, you’ve got nice beautiful painting, mimih spirit, but this one, the weed. Maybe mission grass. Burning right into the shelter. We always control this mission grass. It’s bad for smoke. When you smell mission grass, the smoke, it can be bad, for human health. You can have a bad chest or bad lung. It’s strong, the smoke. It’s going to kill the other grass, the native grass. They’re not going to find that food, the native birds. It’s killing everything. We pull it out, maybe just hand-pull, maybe we spray. I’ve been spraying for ten years now. I know this weed. Jennifer Wurrkidj | Rock Country ‘We know our memory from old people’ Before, when old people were in hunting area, in rock way, there was like Ivan Namarnyilk Mission grass messing with Mimih spirits 2016 ochre, pigment and acrylic on canvas 48 x 48 cm

goanna, mainly like goanna. Cane toad came and make, you know, kill the goanna. I just put story for this in long time ago. They’re staying in eel site and cooking all that animal and yam they carrying, before, in long time ago. When old people was carrying dilly bag and they put in that dilly bag and they carry all that yam or turtle or goanna or kangaroo. That’s all them grass in eel site in rock country. They always make a fire and cook. That’s wallaby and goanna and two barra and two turtle and two yam. That’s the baby mimih, and there like mother and father. Father he was carrying a spear, like double-spear and spear. Before. And mother was carrying a dilly bag and digging stick and yam. It changed. They explain for us, old people, so we can understand when we draw, in picture. We know our memory from old people, and we keep it in memory. They’re stories about in old history. My grandmother, my grandfather. Some we know like in old history, some people they don’t know, they can’t understand like in old history stories. They’re coming like new people. So that’s the story now. When we walk and when we see all these grass, like when we’re going in hill. Different grass when we going in here, that

Jennifer Wurrkidj Old time bush tucker... 2016 ochre, pigment and acrylic on canvas 75 x 75 cm

little sharp one. Like my partner area in rock country, lots of grass there like this. So that’s the story now. 19


Greg Wilson | Feral Cats and Captain Cook We got kitten here, cat, pussy cat, Balanda cat… First one they came, this mob, cat. Back in sixties, long time. Feral cats… They killing all the goanna, all the bird, and the possum. We can’t find them now, the little honey-eating one. We set-em-up camera in the billabong there or inland area, and then in the camera we see this mob, cats, and cane toad and pig. Then we set camera there and next day can’t find him, this guy. Marsupial left. They’re hiding somewhere because of pussycat and cane toad. First Captain something, Captain Cook, he’s the one, he made the mess, mucked up this country. He bring buffalo, I don’t know where from buffalo, Indonesia maybe. They’re from there, they’re not from here. They don’t belong here. Get rid of them. This country belong to kangaroo and emu and brolga. Not cat or cane toad or buffalo.

Greg Wilson Untitled (Feral Cats killing wildlife) 2015 ochre, pigment and acrylic on paper 48 x 48 cm

Hamish Gurrgurrku | Ngalyod (Rainbow Serpent) ‘He’s powerful that one, like an electric city.’ That’s Ngalyod. We call it the white man way the Rainbow Serpent. So I’ve got the waterhole there in rock country. He always come up from that water. Same place [as the lightning spirit]. When it is his time he comes out from the water, maybe at night, you know. Coming with the big rains, the big storms coming. When the winds coming, blowing, that’s always when we see him. Maybe in the sky coming, in the clouds coming, when the winds blow, the black clouds, when we see a big storm coming. In the lightning, like a power, you know, like an electric city. He comes out from the water and just watching, like at night, and then going back again. We can see him every night going down in the rock with the water inside. That’s the story. People they were singing that one, singing in histories, in law. He’s powerful that one… Everywhere in the country he is living you know, in this world. All of this is Rainbow Dreaming. We draw in painting, our country.

Hamish Gurrgurrku Rainbow Serpent 2016 ochre, pigment and acrylic on canvas 75 x 75 cm


Ivan Namarnyilk | The Troublemaker This is stone country, like a shelter, you know. At the bottom of the shelter you can look at all the rock art painting. This fella, he’s destroying it, damaging this rock art. Old story. Ancestors’ story. We didn’t have pig before, even buffalo too. This one feral animal. We didn’t have feral animal before. We had goanna, fish, turtle, kangaroo, and some snake and some spirit, mimih spirit. So this troublemaker, he’s destroying all of our painting, this rock art here. Damaging stories, like in old days, long time, long time ago. When we go out on the flatter country we go to site to look for rock art site, we always see him, rubbing it painting, damaging it too. Fire too. Pig, other animal and fire damaging rock art, but especially this mob here. The troublemaker. So maybe we’re going to put stories of this one, troublemaker, damaging our land. I like this nice beautiful background. The picture is like an old painting. Old painting, you know. I draw a pig there, something new. I like this. It’s beautiful. But this – I hate this bloke. Because I’m a ranger, I hate this bloke. It’s making Ivan Namarnyilk The Troublemaker 2015 ochre, pigment and acrylic on Revere paper 48 x 48 cm

me worried. There’s this painting there, nice beautiful painting, and this old troublemaker they always go there, disturbing the paintings. We don’t like these animals. They’re troublemakers. They always go rubbing against the wall, this beautiful painting. When I go out and see this I think, ‘hey, troublemaker’. Mark it on CyberTracker, put all the story there, damaging story, you know. Mark it, record, download it into the database. It’s infected already. We’ve got big mob population this mob here, pig and buffalo. 95,000 buffalo here, in the Northern Territory. You go out to this place called Ji-balbal, it’s beautiful floodplain. The tracks, thousands, thousands of them. Buffalo track. Too many tracks. Covered, the flood plain. Hollows. Hard ground, pushing down, more, killing turtle, destroying water chestnut. Bush food, turtle everything. And this mob, they’re spreading weeds too. They’re spreading mimosa. One place, Jibalbal, it’s like a different ecology. One here, big mob mimosa there, one here mimosa. That’s why we try to get rid of them there. But we’re busy, busy, busy back here. Especially ranger. In long time, long days, we didn’t have buffalo and pigs. We only have turtle, wallaby, bush tucker. In this stage, we have buffalo and pigs, and they damaging… Rangers we see them out on the floodplain damaging, all these buffalo and pigs. We not going to leave these buffalo in the floodplain area, we’re going to get rid of them. We’re going to shoot them. In the waterhole, maybe we’re going to put some fence around in the floodplain.


Hamish Gurrgurrku | Lightning Spirit ‘Spirit is everywhere: in the grasses, in the hills, in part of my country.’ That’s what we call the Namarden – lightning spirit – this little one, standing with a hill on the country, his home. Where he’s sitting, just like on a rock, sitting down, watching all that hill country. This is where they smell all country, if someone is there, dead and they’ll find him. He smells when people they die, and he goes every night to people, grab their spirit and take it to his home. Little ones, little lightning spirit. He listens when people they die like here or everywhere. Same men and women and baby. He’s a spirit that one, living in the hill, little bit rock country. All this stuff is grass, the green grass in his home living in the camp. Like a long grass waving you know. That’s the water there for him when he drinks. He collects the spirit and takes it to his place when they’re sleeping. Like now, he sees us, but we can’t see. Spirit is everywhere: in the grasses, in the hills, in part of my country. Hamish Gurrgurrku Big Grass in Rock Country 2016 ochre, pigment and acrylic on canvas 75 x 75 cm

That’s why I draw it. It’s my father’s painting and I saw him. We paint it down, sometimes we thinking from memory and how we are doing, with the paint. It’s good to tell the story. Timothy James Johnson | Too Late Country That’s oil. Lot of oil, all over. The country is too late… No croc, no fish, no shark, no stingray. Maybe dead seagull be flying or maybe dying from oil. Dead fish under the water. They been gone from coal mining, gas, that’s why I draw this picture… If it’s too late, it’s too late… Dead fish, floating on top. Dead fish, dead seagull, no good water, dead animal. We’ve got to try to stop it before it’s too late. We fight for it. Greg Wilson | Rangers and Fire I’m Greg Wilson. I do Djelk work. I do fire-fighting. I’m going to go look after my land, my nanna’s land, my dad’s land, my uncle. I’m

Timothy J. Johnson Too Late Country 2016 ochre, pigment, and acrylic on canvas 75 x 75 cm

not from here, I’m from Cadell, near Ji-balbal. My mum is from Buluhkaduru, she’s from rock country. My mum’s from there, my Dad’s from sea country,


We use blower to stop them and drip torch to send the fire this way, back burn, to stop it going right up to art. It’s smoky and they get black. You can’t find it, all that art, black from this fire, big fire… You got to look after rocks. Our ancestors are on that. Some of our mob, they’re there, still alive in the rock country. When you go in the rock country you feel them. They’re there, behind you, watching you. Even rock, they’re not rock, they’re not paintings, they’re real, they’ll watch you all day. Like talk to them, sing out; talk back, you can feel them like this (like goosebumps); ah yeah they’re here. Every year we have to plan where to burn, down rock country area, especially in the chopper, go out… Ladies burn too. We give them matches, yep. We all start doing this early burning, right now. All of it. Big mob of country should be burnt. That’s okay, but you have to chase it, to stop it, by back-burning; put firebreak in, still doing fire-break right now, and these waiting for back fire; dangerous, sometimes smoke kill you, can’t breathe. Greg Wilson Hot burn on Country 2016 ochre, pigment and acrylic on canvas 48 x 48 cm

right in the middle there somewhere. Gupanga area, Blyth River, he’s from there, An-barra man and Gun-nartpa. Both languages. But we’re really from Blyth River, me and dad. I never went to school, I went down school at outstation, school in ceremony, not enough school. I’ll be with all the old people, learning, stay with the old people. Never used paper, used paperbark, drawing, learning. No pen, grass, no pen. Sing them, my old man taught me. He’s gone, finish, he had heart attack, he had stroke, all that. He died quickly. This painting here is all about fire, fire all the time. Here I stop, stop this fire. Killing all the native animals, trees, land, so I might stop this fire, all this time. This one I’m trying to put it out. Big fire coming this way. This fire is going here, destroying all our art like this, art, rock. Sometimes even going there. No good if you don’t look after fire; no grass, no animals.

Now got too many weeds from all over, different weeds, gamba grass, and grader grass, all over; mission grass, all over, biggest mob makes it harder. If country is in good shape, it would have emu, water chestnut, like grass, yam, bush tucker you know, all that. Not so many emus now, from bushfire and too many guns, like shooters. From fire, because it push them away, no fruit tree for them, like not enough food for them, they move back to another place like a rock country side, they hang around there, old emu, you’ll find them there. Big fire, big fire. Big smoke. Black ones. We’ve got to stop them, eh. We got to do early burning. Little burns. Like this time burning, quick, cut all the grass, before this mob come up, late burn… The two there, the old man and woman I painted, they started the fire. They look for yam or goanna and those two silly ones make fire and we got to stop it. This one, local mob, any local mob that go here burning, late burning, they make strong smoke. Late burning it will be like that. Really hot because of the weeds. Too many kerosene grasses that burn like kerosene, you can’t stop them. Have to fall back and make fire brands, make fire break. Burn around sacred sites. Stop that fire. Climate change is different fire... Hotter, burning stuff, burning all the trees and that. Harder to put out. You need maybe 20 team, maybe 100 team put him out, big mob team to go out and put him out. 23


Gloreen Campion Feral Pigs 2015 ochre and acrylic on paper 24 x 24 cm

Ivan Namarnyilk Buffalo and Pig damaging flood plain 2015 ochre and acrylic on paper 24 x 24 cm

Timothy J. Johnson Fresh Water Dreaming 2016 ochre and pigment on canvas 48 x 48 cm

Deborah Wurrkidj Ants and Waterlillies 2015 ochre and acrylic on paper 24 x 24 cm


Ivan Namarnyilk Narbalek Old Way 2016 ochre, pigment and acrylic on canvas 75 x 75 cm

Lee Narlbidgrrka Dugong Stingray and Turtle in shallows 2015 ochre and acrylic on paper 48 x 48 cm

Ivan Namarnyilk Spraying Mission Grass 2015 ochre and acrylic on paper 24 x 24 cm

Ivan Namarnyilk Echida and termite mound 2016 ochre, pigment and acrylic on canvas 48 x 48 cm


Mandy Martin | The Arnhembrand Project

mould of my work with the Walmajarri people in Desert Lake. It began as a simple drawing workshop on an investigative trip in February 2015

‘I need plak,’ John Mawurndjul says, gesturing with his chin at the Arnhembrand art supplies. I take a second beat because although he has been dropping in most days to watch Hamish Gurrgurrku’s canvases evolve, this is the first time he has indicated he wants materials. Hamish’s wife, Jennifer Wurrkidj, having finished her own canvases the day before, is now working further long hours, to help Hamish put the finishing touches to his big, ‘Yabbie Dreaming’ painting. They are surrounded by various family members who are all chatting away about the growing number of large crocodiles this season and the big buffalo they had

and evolved, with the approval and support of the Djelk Rangers, into an art and environment initiative aimed to promote the cultural and land management work conducted in the Djelk Indigenous Protected Area. As a short term, independent project we have worked with a cross section of nearly 80 Bininj participants of all ages and skill levels. There are musicians, performers and respected visual artists living in these communities, like John Mawurndjul AM, whose high profile exhibitions in Australia and around the world have placed him and others in the limelight. The primary aim of the Arnhembrand project is to raise aware-

cooked up for dinner last night.

ness, both nationally and internationally, of the work that the Indigenous

Hamish and Jennifer make a collective decision to paint the edges of

cultural and ecological environments.

the linen turquoise blue, the same colour Jennifer used for the fine line, added as a finishing flourish to her ‘Old Time Bush Tucker in Rock Country’ painting, the day before. The blue denotes water but also sets up a lively visual zing with the rich red and yellow ochres, black and fluoro pigments that they have both used. I have mixed all the non-earth pigments with acrylic binder medium and water, then carefully mixed the fluorescent pigments the same way, adding cadmiums and cobalts to

communities living in the Djelk IPA undertake to preserve their unique

With the introduction of new technologies and methods of communication there is potential to reach out in new and exciting ways that communicate what is a very positive story about Bininj land management and interrelated cultural life. The younger community members adopt new electronic technology (mobile phones, computers etc.) very readily and older people are excited by the possibility of telling their stories

enhance their permanence.

in new and interesting ways. The Arnhembrand project helps these

I avoid giving any of these fluoros to John, instead carefully packing a

of their culture and landscape and the exciting work they are engaged

box of traditional ochres, collected and given to me over the years by archaeologists, anthropologists and friends. John is taken by the deep purple oxide from the Pilbara, which a boiler maker had ground up and carted south for me in a few Cottee’s Cordial bottles, some years ago. I explain to John that none of them are sacred ochres. I would hate to transgress any cultural rules, my colours are in fact, like most ochres,

remote communities to communicate to a wider audience the values in to preserve a way of life that has lessons for all of us in Australia and around the world. The traditional owners of western Arnhem Land live in a very remote part of Australia and in country not easily accessible. For almost half the year they are cut off by flooded rivers swollen by the summer mon-

decomposing haematites in a clay base.

soon. The country has environmental values that are similar to Kakadu

Background

40,000 or more years old, and the traditional culture remains strong.

Arnhembrand originated from an invitation from within the community in 2013 to generate a multidisciplined and participatory project in the

National Park to the west, rock shelters display rock art that could be Many younger people in the community are caught between two worlds – that of white and black – and struggle to recognise and integrate the


values of each. The traditional owners’ and elders’ commitment and

Fluorescents are Anthropocene signifiers, being new chemicals and com-

desire to maintain both the social and environmental values is clear.

pounds, and as many of the global drivers impacting healthy country are

However, these attributes remain largely unrecognised by the wider

connected to climate change, plastics, minerals and other Anthropogenic

national and international population. There is a need to create a global

markers, it seemed an apt choice.

appreciation of the incredible wealth of culture and environment held in western Arnhem Land and the work that is being done to support it by its Indigenous inhabitants and to boost the chance of the community

On the initial Arnhembrand reconnoitre, I simply took along a sketch book and loose sheets of black paper, already with grounds applied, to

becoming sustainable in the long term.

test the interest and feasibility of this project with participants. There

Organisations like Pew Charitable trusts, Bush Heritage Australia, The

with anthropologists Catherine and Ronald Berndt by the Yirrkala com-

Nature Conservancy and the Karrkad Kanjdji Trust, recognise these

munity in 1946 and 1947 using kids’ coloured wax crayons on brown

intertwined values. These groups have spoken and attested to the

paper. Those drawings recorded a rich heritage and contained powerful

uniqueness and importance of this culture and the determination and

information, including visual documentation of the long trade with the

unanimity of the Traditional Owners to care for their Country. To

Macassans. The bark paintings made on the 1948 American-Australian

support their activities, 15% of monies donated by the group of partners

Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land led by Charles P. Mountford were

supporting the Arnhembrand project goes directly to Karrkad Kanjdji

also a precedent, although traditional materials, ochres on bark, were

Trust operational costs.

used to depict local ancestral narratives, as well as body painting designs

The name, Arnhembrand, comes from the language of art world. Bill Fox has written about the fact that all major art centres now have their own

was strong scientific precedent. I was inspired by the drawings made

associated with the trade winds, which heralded seasonal visits from Indonesian trepang fisherman from Makassar.

brand, Xie Xing brand, LA Brand and so on, which led me to declare

Following the method with the black paper used on our first trip, David

this project, set in Arnhem Land, to be Arnhembrand.

Leece and I grounded the canvases with ochres or fluoros, or some-

The Process New Wave Painting The method for the Arnhembrand New Wave Painting was a wonderful home-grown mix of Balanda and Bininj techniques that naturally evolved over the project. As an indicator of changing times and culture we used the latest fluorescent Anthropocene pigments mixed with traditional ochres to create a new language to paint environmental stories. It allowed both Bininj and Balanda artists to record stories about healthy country, in a new way. The Bininj artists called it ‘New way’ painting to distinguish it from the traditional Bininj way that the rarrk masters paint barks, funeral poles and other wooden objects in Arnhem Land.

times a layer of each, crudely overlapping. But the final method for the project emerged from a collaborative process. The Bininj artists took to the canvases with round acrylic brushes or small watercolour brushes but then did the ‘real’ painting with their traditional bush brushes. It is of particular joy watching the Bininj artists prepare these from spear-grass slashed from the seafront at Hamish’s house. These are then cut into roughly 20 cm lengths and then stripped back to 2 or 3 sinewy threads about 6-8 cm long. The artist pulls these threads away from their body through the mixed colour and then apply them to the surface, in this case, linen or canvas, once again drawing the threads away from the body in a fluid and perfectly controlled, ruler sharp line. Any mistakes are met with great consternation and my greatest efforts in assisting the


artists was cleaning up accidental smudges, all possible with some heart

threads and prepare them for weaving, making cups of tea and taking

in the mouth scrubbing under a tap and paint reapplication.

notes.

Arnhembrand live performance

Methodology in practice

In makeshift music recording studio and performance spaces, Laura

This project sought to respond to, and communicate, many of the

Boynes choreographed and directed Arnhembrand Live performance

key challenges faced by Indigenous land-holders in this area, and how

and at times the performers would rush away and come back with

those challenges are being addressed. One of these key threats is loss

clap sticks, ceremonial dance poles or – after testing several for musical

of knowledge. Cultural loss can be practical and include loss of art

key – a didgeridoo, then hurry back to their rehearsals: vital signs that

forms, tools or techniques: but it also manifests itself through the stories

these objects have living ceremonial significance. It has taken a year for

themselves being broken. Ivan Narmarnyilk, Djelk IPA Ranger, learnt to

this electrifying performance to come together. It is a story from the

paint from his ‘big father’ Wamud Namok or Lofty Bardayal Nadjamer-

Dreamtime but uses the latest interactive technologies and recording.

rek AO, the last of the rock painters on the plateau. Ivan explains how

While the performers dance and play didgeridoo, Daniel Bonson sings

Lofty taught him his x-ray style of rarrk and that this is different to the

as he sketches with a stylus on an iPad in fluoro colours. He recounted

sort of rarrk that the coastal artists in Maningrida paint. Certainly as he

in an oral interview that making visits to his ceremonial fishing grounds is

applies fluoro rarrk x-ray lines with his bush brush to his large painting

more precarious due to climate change and that big storms are disrupt-

of a narbalek rock wallaby, a cosmic tingle arcs across the table. The last

ing his songline.

colony of narbalek known now in Arnhem Land lives at Awunbarna, Mt

Digital performance Arnhembrand Daniel and his nephew, Marcus Rostron, are also key performers in

Borrodaile. Ivan is using a threatened cultural technique to paint a nearly extinct species.

Arnhembrand Digital Performance, in which Alexander Boynes uses digital

Ivan uses the ochre ground that I have applied to the canvas to signify

and depth mapping technologies to record song and dance. Daniel Bonson,

the rock wall and he explains that his rarrking technique takes a while.

a sea country person, has a clear understanding of the environmental

Towards the end of the trip, Ivan takes a painting home with him and

threats to his country, including coastal pollution, and as Daniel sings his

works on it long into the night. He tells me that he wants to teach his

‘Flying Fish Dreaming’, Alexander digitally manipulates the fish to skim the

young son to paint, which is evident by the fluoro orange butterflies and

water and through his very body, Daniel simultaneously transcends.

turtles daubed all over the cardboard box of paints I had given Ivan to

Alexander has also created his own artworks that evolve from this collaboration as 2D acrylic and ACM aluminium panels in vibrant colours.

take home. He wants his son to one day be a great painter like his ‘big father’.

The digital performances are exhibited projected onto a silk scrim with a

Artists like Hamish Garrgarrku paint their Dreaming. To Hamish, he em-

large mat (commissioned by Arnhembrand) in the foreground, symbol-

bodies the Yabbie and it is his songline, his country. Painting or singing

ising a ‘meeting place’. Sally Rickards, KKT partner and nurse, assisted

that Dreaming is part of caring for his country. Dealing with environ-

the creating of the large mat in natural Pandanus and fluorescent dyed

mental threats to his country is a huge task and Traditional Owners

raffia palm. She joined the women collecting the Pandanus and then sat

sometimes need help from outside organisations to care for that coun-

on the ground helping Maisie Mirinwarnga and Vera Cameron tease out

try. His painting becomes testimony to his Dreaming and the threats to


his country such as pigs, visitors, and buffalo, but it is also an appeal to

Like me, David battled to find time on the final trip to continue his own

the national and international community to preserve that Dreaming, his

painting, the main opportunities during the whole project have been on

country, him.

weekends and briefly in the morning and afternoons when we returned

The Bininj participants in Arnhembrand know these issues intuitively and experientially. As oral, performed and painted testimony are their main forms of communication and recording stories for posterity, they responded naturally to the Arnhembrand methodology. Communities are not just local or of the locale, they include communities of interest which can be national and international and if people cannot visit the country and meet the people and hear the stories, walk on the country and see the problems themselves, other ways need to be found to take the stories of how local communities care for their country to that audience. This is where our project fits in and why we have chosen a cutting edge methodology to achieve this. There are a lot of competing voices out there in the communication world and a new and vital approach can help break ground, help audiences look at the issues and stories afresh. Arnhembrand has run on the largesse of KKT partners and some of those partnerships have been in-kind from academics, writers, artists, photographers and filmmakers, most of whom generously donated their time. Many donors have become participants as well and the project benefited from their financial, organisational and teamwork skills as they

to the Djinkarr rocky spur. Most of our finished works were completed in our respective studios, when we returned home. However his output was still impressive and he found a place of meditation in the verticals of pandanus against the distant horizontal of the Liverpool flood plain and the pale line of the Arafura Sea. My work over the year was in my sketchbook which doubled as a project for a 2015 International Year of Soils project, Dirt Dialogues, see further reading. Mostly, I managed a sketch a day and for once took hardly any photographs, leaving that task to the photographers in the team, including Hugo Sharp Arnhembrand cinematographer, videographer and web designer and David Taylor, KKT Partner and Agricultural consultant. My studio paintings focussed on the many forms of fire culture ‘Wurrk’ practised in Arnhem Land, see artist bio. Frances Murrell, founder and coordinator of MADGE, food writer and commentator, another KKT partner, joined us on one of our trips and worked in depth with our host at Djinkarr, Leila Nimbadja, discussing food and bush tucker. Leila took Fran and some of the younger women to collect seeds and also to make artworks about issues surrounding food and the loss of knowledge

drove vehicles, cooked, cleaned, wrapped artworks, recorded stories,

The Arnhembrand writers, Bill Fox, Henry Skerritt, Billy Griffiths and

helped set up Bininj phone accounts, sorted out bank accounts and far

KKT partner, David Rickards have been able to work at desks on most

more.

visits, in touch with the world while being surrounded by paintings, fu-

David Leece, international architect and KKT partner, was involved in all decisions relating to Arnhembrand and he has an unquenchable passion to paint. I have to rein in his consumption of canvases, much to his frustration but he tirelessly threw himself into mixing paints for artists and a range of other tasks like coordinating and recording the children’s school song, ‘cheeky, cheeky buffalo’ like a proverbial head master.

neral poles and weavings of masters, past and present. David, a director also of Social Enterprise Finance Australia, has been sending out calls to gather support for Arnhembrand, to friends around the world, with the diligence of a bloodhound. International connections for this project are important to promote the art and artists of Arnhem Land and take their story to the world. He feels the number of young women and children participating will particularly appeal to women donors who are keen to


see the ‘next gen’ coming through in Indigenous communities. Two key women artists in the project have been Deborah and Jennifer Wurrkidj, they both design and print beautiful bolts of fabric and also exhibit more traditional barks and mimih poles. They are both very quick to grasp how their painting can tell stories about the environmen-

challenges of climate change and its effects like shifting populations, the loss of biodiversity, people’s ability to feed and cure themselves from disease and much more. The testimony that these participants have generously proffered in Arnhembrand, will be an enduring archive which documents this period in ways that no other forms really can.

tal threats and they gave oral recordings, adding their own stories to this

The purchase of the Bininj artwork for the archive and book royalties

testimony.

have contributed income for the community. The archive, consisting of

One artist, Timothy Johnson, amazed himself and us with his powerful new images. He communicated a dark picture of the land and in his painting of a waterhole with ‘too many fish’ and a yellow belly black snake on top of them, he was commenting on waterholes drying up because of climate change. He is also the lone artist addressing mining in the project, although there are anti-CSG and coal mining signs posted

stories collected through digital, filmed, oral, written and painted testimony, provides a clear and important record of all aspects of the project. The archive will be acquired by the Center for Art + Environment, Nevada Museum of Art. This is one of few institutions that collects art and environmental projects from all over the world and maintains this material through the work of dedicated librarians and staff for posterity.

up about town, it is difficult for Countrymen, who haven’t seen the ef-

In the longer term, the activities of the Karrkad Kanjdji Trust (whose

fects of mining to visualise it. CSG exploration is taking place out in the

role is to support community and landscape sustainability), will become

Arafura Sea and complex negotiations have been happening in Arnhem

better recognised through this project, thus enabling it to continue and

Land over township leases which involve mining rights.

expand the work it is doing in supporting the communities of Djelk.

Although this project may have produced the first fluoro rarrk pussy cat,

This project has used a contemporary format, under Bininj ownership

cane toad, buffalo and the first fluoro and raffia mat in Maningrida, there

and control, to help move the challenges and triumphs of these isolated

is nothing really new under the sun. When Maisie Mirinwarnga visited

communities into a national and world spotlight.

the Djomi Museum for the first time, she wept to see her father in a photo up there on the wall. She said she saw him dancing and singing and her grandparents too, that they were all there. We talked about the wonderful baskets and dilly bags in the museum, which include brightly coloured synthetic fibres – Macassan influences. When Maisie needed to match the pink edging to tie off the mat, she called her family to seek a particularly dark purple pandanus to match the fluorescent colours.

Mandy Martin is a renowned artist who lives in the Central West of New South Wales. The Arnhembrand is the final project in a series of 10 art and environment projects working across Australia. She is an Adjunct Professor at the Fenner School of Environment and Society Australian National University. www.mandy-martin.com

Conclusion Art movements come and go but cultural shifts are much more profound. This cultural adaptation to record testimony about living on healthy country will help communities like Maningrida cope with the

Right: Mandy Martin Cool Burn #4 2017 pigment, acrylic and oil on linen 135 x 135 cm


Light - Stone - Fire Alexander Boynes - David Leece - Mandy Martin 10 - 27 August 2017 28 Derby Street Collingwood VIC 3066 AU S T R A L I A N GA L L E R I E S


Alexander Boynes - Light Alexander Boynes completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours) at the Australian National University in 2004. Recent solo exhibitions include Time / Body / Light, Beaver Galleries, Canberra, 2016 and Water Stories, Fitters Workshop Canberra, 2016 for the Contour 556 Festival. He is represented in the collections of Artbank Australia, the ACT Legislative Assembly, and the University of Canberra as well as numerous private collections throughout Australia and in London. Boynes is the Program Manager at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space where he curated 2° - Art and climate change, 2016; Footy fever, 2015, Blaze nine, 2015, Action stations - Peter Maloney and Louise Paramor, 2014, and The Triangle - Political Art in Canberra, 2013 in addition to co-curating numerous projects. In 2013 Boynes established PRAXIS a multidisciplinary art collective with choreographer/dancer Laura Boynes, and cellist/composer Tristen Parr to explore the link between visual art, performance, and sound. Prior to Arnhembrand Boynes exhibited in the environmental art project Desert Lake at Australian Galleries, Melbourne, which brought together indigenous and non-indigenous artists from the Paruku Indigenous Protected Area. Arnhembrand similarly aims to preserve the unique cultural and ecological environment by promoting healthy country and healthy communities through art, science and stories.

Alexander Boynes is represented by Beaver Galleries, Canberra.

Left: Redshift 2017 pigment and enamel on aluminium 100 x 100 cm

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Above: Woomera Story 2016 pigment and enamel on acrylic and aluminium 48 x 48 cm Left: Flying Fish Story 2016 pigment and enamel on acrylic and aluminium 48 x 48 cm Right: Woomera Echo 2017 pigment and enamel on aluminium 120 x 120 cm


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Above: Doppler 2017 pigment and enamel on aluminium 75 x 75cm Left: Outstation 2017 pigment and enamel on aluminium 75 x 75 cm Right: Spirit Man Dance 2017 pigment and enamel on aluminium 120 x 120 cm


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David Leece - Stone David is a Founding Director of Billard Leece Partnership, an architectural practice delivering complex health and institutional projects around Australia. When not fully committed to architecture, he expresses his passion for the landscape through painting and photography, and has been a collaborator with Mandy and Alexander on several projects, including the current Arnhembrand project. He has exhibited in Alice Springs, Melbourne and Reno, Nevada. David has provided philanthropic support to conservation groups and was one of the initial supporters of CLIMARTE. He is now a board member of CLIMARTE which has recently completed the very successful second Art + Climate = Change Festival. This current series of work explores the landscape of water in the Arnhem Land plateau. . The plateau is the home of secret places – unlike the freshwater floodplains, the plateau is all caves and rock gorges. Water and vegetation create microclimates that promote a diverse range of landscapes, from dense tropical rainforests to dry savannah grasslands and open woodland and the paperbark forests that crowd the waterways. This is where the Liverpool River has its source, slowly gouging through sandstone, delving deep gorges before crashing over the plateau’s edge to the floodplain below. The waters here at the end of the dry season are spring fed and flow swiftly through the paperbark forests. The river is at least fordable and a welcome cool at this time of year. It is contained by deep furrows and pools that are suddenly dammed by grasses and reeds, creating spill overs that surge to the next pool. There seems no set course – just as the water flows. In this landscape rock art is the predominant expression. On shelters, cliffs, under deep sandstone overhangs gouged by some ancient sea, it seems that every surface is covered with art. Works that are painted over, pigment absorbed by the rock, stories told and retold, these works are witness to an extraordinary culture of great vitality and longevity, the ultimate witness to time. This country is in danger because it is empty – traditional owners having been displaced can no longer care for country as they did. Left: First Creek Paperbarks 2017 oil and pigment on linen 122 x 122 cm

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Above: Liverpool River Flood 2016 oil on canvas 76 x 76 cm Left: Paperbark Sentinels 2016 oil and pigment on canvas 76 x 76 cm Right: Paperbark Sentinels #1 2017 oil and pigment on linen 122 x 122 cm


Above: Untitled 2016 ochre and acrylic on paper 24 x 24 cm Left: Liverpool River Late Dry 2016 oil and pigment on canvas 76 x 76 cm Right: Liverpool River Late Dry #1 2017 oil and pigment on linen 122 x 122 cm


Mandy Martin - Fire Mandy Martin has held numerous exhibitions in Australia and internationally. Her works are in many public and private collections including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria and other state collections and regional galleries. In the USA she is represented in the Guggenheim Museum New York; the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Nevada Museum of Art, Reno and many private collections. She lives in the Central West of New South Wales, Australia, and is currently an Adjunct Professor Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University. From 1995-2017 her creative practice has focused in large part on 10 collaborative art and environment projects with Indigenous people in remote and regional Australia. Her current project, continuing this commitment, is Arnhembrand. Her Savannah Burning series of paintings, exhibited here at Australian Galleries Stockroom Melbourne, focuses on the importance of Bininj cool burning for Australia’s emissions targets and climate change. Mandy Martin is an active member of CLIMARTE and has presented artwork and given public talks in Melbourne for the previous two CLIMARTE festivals. Alexander Boynes and Mandy Martin contributed Blast 2016 Digital video loop and oil on linen, for the 2016 Climarte exhibition titled The Warming, curated by Mandy Martin for Australian Galleries, Melbourne.

Left: Fire Work #1 2017 pigment, acrylic and oil on linen 100 x 100 cm

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Above: Fire Work #2 2017 pigment, acrylic and oil on linen 100 x 100 cm Left: Fire Work #4 2017 pigment, acrylic and oil on linen 100 x 100 cm Right: Cool Burn #1 2017 pigment, acrylic and oil on linen 135 x 135 cm


Above: Cool Burn #2 2017 pigment, acrylic and oil on linen 135 x 135 cm Left: Burning, Blackall 2017 pigment, acrylic and oil on linen 100 x 100 cm Right: Fire Work #3 2017 pigment, acrylic and oil on linen 100 x 100 cm


*Sources for William L. Fox | Re-Branding (p10 - 11) Altman, Jon, ‘A brief social history of Kuninjku art and the market’, in Claus Volkenandt & Christian Kaufmann, eds., Between indigenous Australia and Europe: John Mawurndjul: art histories in context (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2009), 19-28. Kaufmann, Christian, ‘Rarrk: John Marundjul: Journey through Time in Northern Australia’ (Basel: Museum Tinguely, 2005). Richards, Greg, ‘Tourism Trends: The Convergence of Culture and Tourism’, The Netherlands: Academy for Leisure NHTV University of Applied Sciences, 2014. Skerritt, Henry, ‘Bardayal “Lofty” Nadjamerrek’, Art Guide Australia (Nov-Dec 2010), 45-49. Taylor, Luke, ‘Painted energy: John Mawurndjul and the negotiation of aesthetics in Kuninjku bark painting’, in Claus Volkenandt & Christian Kaufmann, eds., Between indigenous Australia and Europe: John Mawurndjul: art histories in context (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2009), 31-45. Volkenandt, Claus (and Christian Kaufmann), eds., Between indigenous Australia and Europe: John Mawurndjul: art histories in context (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2009). William L. Fox is a renowned poet and writer who lives in Reno, Nevada. He is Director of the Center for Art + Environment, Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, Nevada.


ISBN 978-0-648-11620-2

arnhembrand.com australiangalleries.com.au

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Mandy Martin Arnhembrand 2017  
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