Paruku Rangers

Paruku, Desert Lake

Desert Lake, art, science and stories from Paruku. Blog 13

Mandy Martin Gaining permissions Warrayunta Art Centre Photo David Leece DSC_0161 (74)

Desert Lake Project April 2012

The final big group trip to Paruku to work with the Walmajarri participants in the Desert Lake project, was another marathon event. Storm systems hovered around the Tanami Track but we managed to avoid heavy falls even though there were dramatic lighting displays far away to the north east the first few nights camping at the Lake.

Photo: Mandy Martin

Two new project members joined us this trip, on left, Tom Lynch, a writer and English Literature Professor, University of Nebraska Uni and right, Jocelyn Davies, Geographer, CSIRO ecosystem Sciences. (also left to right; Pirate the dog, Kim Mahood, Steve Morton and Faye Alexander)

The were several main tasks for the trip including seeking signed permissions on all the draft written and photographed material in the book.

Mandy Martin and Warruyanta Art Centre artists. Photo David Leece

Basil Hall, Basil Hall Editions, Darwin, had posted the 11 editions of screen prints in the Desert Lake folio, the art work for which had been painted on the August trip and the prints all needed titling, numbering and signing.

Jacinta Lulu and Mandy Martin, signing prints. Photo David Leece As usual all hands were on deck and everyone including the artists and scientists multi-tasked, helping screen print logos onto the new project shirts and in the photo below, Tom Lynch and Steve Morton, took it in turns “fixing” the logos with the iron while David Leece signed prints with Veronica Lulu.

Photo Mandy Martin The Warrayunta artists responded enthusiastically to Faye Alexander’s sculpture workshop. She had collected found metal materials and objects from the Mulan dump, and around the community and brought wool and fabric scraps from op shops in Alice Springs as a starting point to construct flowers.

Photo David Leece Faye worked, with Tara Lecke assisting and in this photo also Jessica Armson, the new Art Center coorindator.

Photo David Leece Meanwhile scientists, Jocelyn Davies, Guy Fitzhardinge and Steve Morton ran exhaustive interviews with the Paruku Rangers, Mulan Councillors, artists and members of the community, the new IPA coordinator and the Mulan Community CEO to discuss community resilience and how different people saw the future. This culminated in a full gathering at Handover site where we all discussed “Ways of Seeing Paruku”. Excerpts of this will become our final “Coda” for the book. The Handover meeting just happened to coincide with the Broome representative from the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Craig Creighton and the Balgo Art Centre coordinators, visiting the community. We were able to demonstrate that Warrayunta Art Center are engaged in a big project and in good shape to benefit from AGWA assistance to be part of an extensive proposed AGWA Kimberly project.

Rob Cossart, Department of Water, Western Australia and Rebecca Dobbs, Freshwater Ecology Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, University of Western Australia, joined us from Kununurra at the end of the week to continue their on going research work. It was a holiday mood when we all went out to the Lake for a Welcome to Country for our newcomers and then a big fishing/ parasite sampling afternoon.

Photo David Leece

Rebecca Dobbs and Paruku Rangers. Photo David Leece

Rebecca and Rob and the Paruku Rangers worked with the women who literally hauled in the fish and as they did so they were analysed for nematodes and the results were recorded on the cyber-tracker.

The general consensus was the fish had far fewer parasites than the last survey and the women were very happy with their haul, the good fish being a great Friday meal. We drove back to Mulan across the vast grassy flood plains, staggered at the number of horses thundering past placid brolgas feeding in the long afternoon light.

Faye and Kim stayed on for another week to respectively continue the sculpture workshop and the signing of permissions. The rest of the group started the trip back home. Deadlines for the book loom and the artworks for the exhibition are all being photographed now by Mike Gillam in Alice Springs and the text is nearing completion. Mandy martin and Laura Boynes have just spent 4 days constructing a story board and editing hours of film and audio down to a 27 minute rough cut of the film. Permissions will be cleared on that hopefully in August and then Macquarie Bank editing studio will take the finished DVD to high resolution.

The film, book and website will all be launched with the first exhibition at Araluen Art Centre, Alice Springs, 1 March 2013.

Mandy Martin May 2013

Paruku, Desert Lake

Blog 10 The Paruku Project 4-22 August 2011

Blog 10 The Paruku Project Thursday we had our wrap up day with the community and it started with more painting at the archaeology site for the men.

Guy took our visitors to see some of the horse damage and also the huge colony of brolgas feeding at the south end of the lake. He then had a meeting with some of the local people to find out what plans were in place to deal with the horses.

Kim and the visitors then went to the school for more work on the mapping project with the older kids while all hands were on deck finishing artwork and acetates at the art centre.

Events were held up for quite a while in early afternoon by a brown snake crawling into the underbody of the Store manager’s vehicle, bringing everyone to standstill while suggestions were made about how to get the snake out. The snake after a dosing with the hose wasn’t budging but eventually dropped out and was dispatched of course!

Warruyanta Art Centre, Mandy finishing studies, David taylor downloading film and photos, John Carty and Bill Fox cataloging artworks. Photo David Leece

Preparing for show and tell, Mandy finishing studies, David Taylor downloading photos, John and Bill finishing exhibition spreadsheet and catalogue of works. Photo David Leece

The afternoon concluded with the beautiful Pelican Dreaming Dance lead by Hanson Pye, Bill and Bessie Doonday and Chamia Samuels singing the narrative with a microphone. It was a stunning and wonderful way to finish our working trip to Paruku. Everyone then processed around the art centre and gymnasium to look at the art work. There were warm farewells and promises to return for a final week’s work in April when all the art works and ranger work is more evolved.

A mad wrapping session then happened so that we could take as many finished works as possible to show to curators and for safe keeping for exhibitions. I have never had such a highly qualified team of art wrappers, for which I was really grateful. This was followed the following morning by a mad packing session as we left camp and started our long respective trips home.

Paruku, Desert Lake

Blog 10 The Paruku Project 4-22 August 2011

Blog 10 The Paruku Project Thursday we had our wrap up day with the community and it started with more painting at the archaeology site for the men.

Guy took our visitors to see some of the horse damage and also the huge colony of brolgas feeding at the south end of the lake. He then had a meeting with some of the local people to find out what plans were in place to deal with the horses.

Kim and the visitors then went to the school for more work on the mapping project with the older kids while all hands were on deck finishing artwork and acetates at the art centre.

Events were held up for quite a while in early afternoon by a brown snake crawling into the underbody of the Store manager’s vehicle, bringing everyone to standstill while suggestions were made about how to get the snake out. The snake after a dosing with the hose wasn’t budging but eventually dropped out and was dispatched of course!

Warruyanta Art Centre, Mandy finishing studies, David taylor downloading film and photos, John Carty and Bill Fox cataloging artworks. Photo David Leece

Preparing for show and tell, Mandy finishing studies, David Taylor downloading photos, John and Bill finishing exhibition spreadsheet and catalogue of works. Photo David Leece

The afternoon concluded with the beautiful Pelican Dreaming Dance lead by Hanson Pye, Bill and Bessie Doonday and Chamia Samuels singing the narrative with a microphone. It was a stunning and wonderful way to finish our working trip to Paruku. Everyone then processed around the art centre and gymnasium to look at the art work. There were warm farewells and promises to return for a final week’s work in April when all the art works and ranger work is more evolved.

A mad wrapping session then happened so that we could take as many finished works as possible to show to curators and for safe keeping for exhibitions. I have never had such a highly qualified team of art wrappers, for which I was really grateful. This was followed the following morning by a mad packing session as we left camp and started our long respective trips home.

Paruku, Desert Lake

Blog 9 The Paruku Project 4-22 August 2011

Final crew

Blog 9 The Paruku Project Breakfast campfire. Photo David Leece

Paruku mob around campfire Handover site. Photo David Leece

Wednesday we farewelled Basil from camp then David Taylor took Bill Fox, David Leece and Kim Mahood for a fly over the lake and Sturt Creek. Kim apparently was very excited seeing the island in the middle of the lake and the salt pans from the air, a long held dream for her.

David Taylor and Guy then flew Basil on to Broome to connect with his flight to Perth and eventually Canberra. They saw some pretty amazing country from the air but missed a big day on the ground at Paruku.

Kim had prepared a 5 panel canvas with a projected image of the section of Parnkupirti Creek where an archaeological exploration had unearthed an ancient stone core in 2008. We all assembled with the Walmajarri artists at the archaeology site where after some initial excitement because the rangers had just killed a death adder, and had set fire to the spnifex all around us, we settled down into long discussion about who should paint the canvases. It was decided it was a men’s painting and all the men trooped off with the canvases and art materials down the gully, leaving all the women to discuss skin groups and have a cup of tea. We all then headed back to our respective studio spots to paint in the cool, for the day. The men returned after a huge day, much later on. Work continued for the next day at the site and then late into the night before we left.

The Rangers and all the visiting men witnessing the Parnkupirti painting.

Photo John Carty

Paruku, Desert Lake

Blog 8 The Paruku Project 4-22 August 2011

Blog 8 The Paruku Project Sunday was a big expedition to drive around Paruku and a vehicle headed off soon after breakfast and arrived back by dusk, Bill Fox had his poet’s hat on that day especially as he contemplated circumnavigation. Guy wanted to see where most of the cattle were and get an idea of horse numbers. David Leece and I battled with the tricky wind which seems to spiral around the lake , arriving every half hour or so and whipping all our canvases and paints up in the air. Hansen was not the least bit surprised about this, the handover site has a spiral wind dreaming, it seems.

All the art team were on deck early helping on the Tuesday morning to speed Basil through finishing the burgeoning number of print acetates and also to assist Basil print “Desert Lake, The Paruku Project” logo onto100 orange bandanas which David Leece had bought on ebay.  David then set the ink by ironing them, despite the growing heat!

David Leece tying bandanas on weavers. Photo Mandy Martin

On Tuesday afternoon the last of our party arrived, (also project donors), they had flown to Broome, then hired a vehicle and driven out through Fitzroy Crossing and Hall’s Creek. They arrived with lots of fresh lettuces and tomatoes and other supplies so were welcome in every way! After briefly showing our visitors the artwork in progress at the art centre, we took them out to the Handover site to settle them into camp.

The Traditional Owners once again arrived and we had tea under the bough shelter and then promenaded to the lake where the Friday and Tuesday arrivals were welcomed to Country.

Hansen Pye and Chamia ran the ceremonies and we were humbled and happy to be given skin names. This caused much discussion and at times laughter as names were chosen for us and we stood to repeat and accept them. Once again Gill closed the ceremony by giving everyone orange bandanas!

Paruku, Desert Lake

Blog 7 The Paruku Project 4-22 August 2011

Blog 7 The Paruku Project Friday was another big day, much anticipated because some new comers to our group were rendezvousing in Alice Springs to fly to Mulan. David Taylor had returned from Spain to his own Cessna, parked while he was away, in Alice Springs and he had to find John Carty from Canberra and Basil Hall from Darwin. Basil, not knowing John, had the brainwave of buying a cheap pad and pen from the newsagent and standing at the arrivals door with a note paging John Carty.. a big moment in John’s life… we were much relieved to see their plane arrive on the dirt strip, within 5 minutes of David Taylor’s ETA that afternoon, with everyone on board.

Being a slave driver, everyone responded to my call to work on the weekend including the Warruyanta artists who had all agreed to come in to work with Basil making acetates, some from their canvases, completed during the week for a large and exciting print project.

John Carty also threw himself straight into work, recording oral histories and stories arising from the history paintings and generally cataloguing and curating the art collection with Bill Fox as it grew over the following week.

Having John and Basil at the art centre gave David Leece and me more time to focus on our own painting which had been suffering due to the heavy program, so we were able to spend longer uninterrupted hours painting in locations near the lake. Hanson Pye and the rangers dropped by the camp regularly to see the works progressing and we also took the canvases into the art centre a few times so everyone could see how we were tackling their Country. Hanson named my 5 works “Falling Star” after the place on the lake, where all the dead trees point straight up after the star fell into the middle of the lake. We have agreed to swap a painting with each other next year, he was very taken with mine and wanted to hang one of the 5 panel studies on his wall at home he said.

Paruku, Desert Lake

Blog 6 The Paruku Project, 4-22 August 2011

Blog 6 The Paruku Project After our Welcome to Country, we established a pattern to the working day, Guy and I getting up just before first light at 5 am to start the fire for the billy and coffee, get breakfast going, put out the lunch for people to make up packed lunches and preparing the evening meal. David Leece and I would start painting by about 6 am either in camp or on the lake while the conversations around the fire rolled on and early morning walkers and birdwatchers ambled back into camp.

Campsite at Dawn. Photo David Leece

David and I both were struggling to find a visual language for the lake, I had worked there twice before so knew I wanted to make 5 panel studies for paintings but other than that we both plunged in fairly blindly, allowing the lake to talk to us.

Guy and Steve, (the scientists) and volunteer Chris Curran, with mechanical skills, were off to the community by 8.00 am to work with the rangers if they didn’t come by the camp first to collect them. They worked on eradicating Parkinsonia weed, looking at bilby burrow sites, estimating cattle numbers, looking at feral horse damage and a bit of hunting! Chris was the community hero for fixing the fuel pump so everyone could buy the fuel! Not to mention the water pump and so on… Bill Fox, with his ubiquitous notebook, (clasped at a weird left handed angle which meant one could never cheat and read what he had written down) and noticing probably too much, and Gill Taylor, after wrapping up lunch usually for 12 people, hopped into which ever vehicle appealed to them or had room, often the art one but sometimes the ranger/ science one and headed out of camp for the morning exodus.

By 8.30 David and I were off to Mulan also to open up and work with the competent and committed art centre coordinator, Jacinta Lulu. The painting went on like a wildfire the first few days and soon most of the canvases were bagsed and swaps started happening to maximise access to the canvases. Kim was able to re-stretch some more using the original frames as the week went on. She drew up a 5 panel work herself and started painting and Gill found some private time to start a canvas also.

Wednesday was a big day with a school session in the mid-morning, Kim had prepared 48 canvas board panels, with an ochre coloured ground and a projected aerial map of the Paruku Lake system painted onto it. Elder Hanson Pye joined us in a session with the kids where we discussed the lake and what animals and birds could be found in different places. Kim chalked those names on the maps. This was a high voltage session and it took all hands on deck to help the kids paint emus, kangaroo, brolgas, swans and so on, on the separate panels of the map. This work continued in week 2 with the Paruku donors when they visited and since leaving, Kim and some of women from the Warruyanta centre have continued this map with the kids.

Kim Mahood and Hansen Pye running the mapping session.

Paruku, Desert Lake

Blog 5 The Paruku Project 4-22 August 2011

Blog 5 The Paruku Project On Monday 8 we arrived in good time to set up camp for everyone, prepare the ochre coloured grounds on 60 canvases and cook a big dinner for the 10 visitors in our group in camp that night.

Tuesday was our first day working in the Warruyanta Art Centre and a steady trickle of artists flooded in as soon as Jacinta Lulu opened the doors to start preparing the art centre. Kim had discussed with everyone that this was an art, science and story project and I discussed this idea with them again and showed them reproductions of the Warrukun collection which John Carty had recently co-curated and explained that we were keen to ask the artists to paint history paintings with stories about Country, both old time stories and new ones, to create a point of difference and make paintings to fit into this project.

Shirley Yoomarie painting “Working with scientists” Photo John Carty

Our main painters over the two weeks were Megan Boxer, Shirley Yoomarie, Launa Yoomarie and Daisy Kangah who prodced a couple of canvases each. Hansen Pye, Veronica and Jacinta Lulu, Anna Johns, Magda Matthews, Chamia Samuels and Dolores Bridgeman also painted. Many children and teenagers dropped by to paint also.

On the Friday the rangers and Guy were able to collect some fresh grasses for weaving when they visited the Blue Tongue Dreaming site and Chris Curran and the rangers collected scrap metal and wire from the dump. He and David Leece then helped the weavers fashion the metal into armatures for the weaving with found materials, and grasses. Anne Ovi, Karen Lulu and a few others immediately took to this idea and it leaves a lot of potential for Faye and Fran to work on next year in April we hope. The Warruyanta artists have plans for a large installation work.

Anne Ovi with weaving grasses. Photo John Carty

Tuesday afternoon we all returned to Handover site with many of the Walmajarri TO’s for a major Welcome to Country ceremony, conducted initially in the main bough shelter at camp from where we processed by foot and vehicle for the elderly, to the Lake’s edge. Chamia and Bessie sang out the traditional song for the Country and firstly the men were lead by the Walmajarri elder men including some of the younger men from the community who had missed the ceremony before, into the water to be liberally smeared with mud and water, then the women were lead in by the women. It was a deeply moving experience for us all.  We then returned to the camp for tea, sandwiches and so Bill Doonday could narrate and sing the Two Dingo Dreaming and Falling Star Stories for Paruku.

To conclude the ceremony, Gill Taylor presented us all with beautiful blue woollen vests and beanies produced by her clothing company “Natural Instinct”, with “Desert Lake, The Paruku Project” embroidered on the breast. The Rangers were especially taken with theirs and declared themselves “Power Rangers”

Photo David Leece

Paruku, Desert Lake

Blog 4 The Paruku Project 4- 22 August 2011

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Blog 4 The Paruku Project. Second Trip 4- 22 August 2011 This was the big working trip designed to bring together all the participants including artists, scientists, writers and donors to work with the Traditional Owners to explore the interface between indigenous and non- indigenous ways of representing, interpreting and looking after country. The Paruku artists and rangers were all ready for this intensive period, having met with us and discussed the project in May.

We were a large group, travelling from all over the world and Australia to the remote community of Mulan.

Kim Mahood had already been at Mulan for 3 weeks reactivating the IPA office and preparing and explaining to everyone in the community what was going to be happening with the project. The Paruku Rangers had prepared the Handover camp site to be our base for 2 weeks.

Handover Camp. Photo David Leece

Rob Cossart from the WA Dept of Water and Rebecca Dobbs, Researcher from the Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management, The University of Western Australia Kimberley Region, Kununurra had arrived a few days before our group to start water monitoring and fish sampling and the cybertracking/ mapping work with the Rangers and Kim.

Rob Cossart’s rig. Photo Mandy Martin

Jenifer Rahmoy, Australian Federal Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, People and Communities, came from Canberra via Kununurra, to observe and talk with everyone.

Two other scientists in the team, Steve Morton and Guy Fitzhardinge travelled ahead of my larger group, by road from Alice Springs to join Rob, Rebecca, Kim and the Paruku Rangers to observe the monitoring and discuss the scientific contribution to the CSIRO Publication about Paruku.

Bill Fox was delayed 24 hours flying from the USA and due to family reasons Faye Alexander had to withdraw from this trip but we gathered the rest of the group together at the Silver Bullet, which is where Steve and Faye Alexander live.

When Bill finally did arrive, we barely gave him a cup of coffee, in fact not even a shower, before hitting the road to the Tanami track. We camped the night near Mt Doreen enjoying our first night under the shooting stars.