Hugo here writing up some of my experiences of the most recent Arnhembrand trip to Maningrida to work with the amazing local artists and rangers.
Artists at Work
For some reason I expected it to be on the cooler side post-wet season and was surprised to find it a humid 36 degrees centigrade. For our artists this was the last trip to finalise many of the largest images in the project and a big effort was put in by all.
Hamish graciously showed Billy Griffiths and me how he makes traditional Rarrk brushes from spear grass near his beach-front house. The fibrous stem of the plant is pressed and bent until the fibres become malleable. Then the outer fibres are cut away to leave a few fibres with which to paint the very intricate Rarrk styled paintings this area of the Northern Territory is famous for (see image below right).
Beyond the very un-traditional traditional paintings much was happening with dance and video. Laura Boynes choreographed and rehearsed a ‘new wave’ dance with Colin Wilson and Matihew Djipurrtjun and with Daniel Bonson live drawing onto the projected backdrop of red clouds and a polluted sea (seen below). The results were stunning on every level. Alexander Boynes and I filmed this live Arnhembrand performance (Broken Dreaming Story) and it is to be edited by Laura into a video work.
Alexander and Laura also collaborated on recording the final digital performance (below) which melds traditional dance and music with modern depth-mapping video technology.
Arnhembrand digital performance mainly worked with the younger participants in the 18-35 year-old age group, using digital and depth mapping technologies to record song and dance. These digital artworks will be presented for exhibition as a large projection on a silk scrim and on the ground in front of this screen will be a large mat which Arnhembrand have commissioned. Alexander’s artworks will also be presented as 2D acrylic and ACM aluminium panels in vibrant colours.
The large mat in natural pandanus collected that week by the women and fluorescent dyed raffia palm, bought from a craft store, has been overseen by Sally Rickards, an environmental benefactor and nurse. She has selflessly worked all week, firstly helping the women collect the pandanus at remote communities, then sitting on the ground helping Maisie and Vera Cameron tease out threads and prepare them for weaving, making cups of tea and taking notes.
There were many old friends to see and catch up with as well as new faces to meet and get to know. Portraits are always a treat for me and, thanks to a lovely piece of white panelling, I was able to create a quick outdoor studio.
Getting out onto country is essential for the Djelk Rangers to effectively implement the community’s land management goals. Billy Griffiths and I joined them on a day of meeting with land owners, fire management and culling feral buffalo. It has been a dry wet, and there was a lot of concern about the possibility of damaging ‘hot’ fires late in the season. The rangers made firebreaks around the outstations, blowing debris away from houses, cars, and water tanks, and then flicking matches into dry leaves to start ‘cool’ burns that clean the country.
‘Twas the season… for AFL, but given the 36 degree days, matches are played in the late afternoon. Coin tosses are crucial as the sun becomes quite low in the second half.
You never paint alone at Djinkarr. Team mascot ‘Eyebrows’ and a horde of Mosquitos are always more than happy to provide company.
Many thanks for reading and don’t hesitate to ask any questions below.