Following our successful ‘reccie’ in March to Maningrida to present community members in the Djlek IPA with a project proposal developed from their concerns about Living on Healthy, we returned with a larger Arnhembrand team to Maningrida in the Djelk IPA. The community endorsed our proposal and started drawings, digital and oral recordings and signed participation consent forms.
Maningrida, Djelk IPA
After initial meetings to organise the logistics and a programme for the week, everyone scattered around the community to discuss their individual plans. Guy headed off to talk with the Rangers and they hunted a buffalo, destined for the crocodile trap down near the wharf, where the kids swim! Alexander and Laura Boynes met with Natalie Carey, David, Fran and I collected the art materials and canvases freighted out by barge from Darwin We organised a working programme with the women for the week. We left Henry Skerritt and Bill Fox to familiarise themselves with some of the senior artists. They were delighted to immediately meet and interview John Marwundjul. Another highlight for them during the week was witnessing the smoking ceremony for the completion of an enormous hollow log Johnny Bulunbulun had been painting at the time of his death in 2010 and which his widow Laurie Maburru had continued to completion. Henry recorded a number of oral histories from the senior artists and also the Arnhembrand artists during the week, which explicate the works being made for the Arnhmebrand project. Bill was tasked with placing Arnhembrand within an international Brand context and also in the stream of multidisciplinary art and environment projects on an international scale. He thought and researched widely during the week.
After buying our food we headed out to set up the “Lab”, the science workshop at Djinkarr, for the painting workshops that week. David and I painted fluoro grounds on 30 canvases in preparation and shortly after, the first artists, Djelk Rangers, Ivan Namarnyilk and Greg Wilson arrived to work on large squares of heavy black paper, while David and I grabbed a few moments to work also.
Later after a magnificent sunset, Leila Nimbadja, Djinkarr Traditional Owner, joined us for dinner and agreed to work with Fran Murrell and some younger women on a project about food. They all collected and used local seed to apply to small partially painted canvases. Leila has expert knowledge on plants, birds and bush foods and medicine and runs a plant nursery in Maningrida.
The following days were a busy continuum of painting and interviewing the Rangers, the women from Babbarra designs and other community members, who well understood what they were painting and passionately explained environmentally themed works about ghost nets and plastic in the ocean, through to the first fluoro rarrk feral cat and kitten ever painted!
Alexander and Laura worked with performers and were really excited to record a Creation story with the Pascoe family. It was a good chance for Laura to observe and do some preparatory dance moves with possible Arnhembrand new wave performers. Alexander and Laura continued work after dark, collecting support material for the digital work, the filming of a cane toad causing great hilarity. It was of course captured by Hugo as usual who was everywhere the whole week photographing and filming everything and at all times.
As the season had dried out quickly, access to remote outstations is now possible and Guy went out with the Djelk Rangers to visit a few and drop off buffalo and crocodile, hunted and butchered along the way, to people who are otherwise totally isolated and without services during the wet. It is burning season and fires were started everywhere in both IPA’s while we were there. Guy walked 5 kms with a fire dripper one day starting fires, David Leece had an exciting time photographing when the fire suddenly flared up near him.
Many thanks to all who helped make this second trip possible.