Where in the hell have those old men disappeared to? An important question, because there we were, hundreds of kilometres from anywhere, deep in the middle of the Tanami Desert, only to find that our three Aboriginal guides had just vanished into thin air! PETER LATZ, botanist, author,recalls adventures in the bush with traditional owners.
A show of “light and dark”, of “quiet and intriguing discoveries”, that “answers questions and poses them”, is how Helen Maxwell OAM, art consultant and valuer, described Groundrush, an exhibition at the Araluen Arts Centre that opened last Friday. It grew out of the work of six artists who took part in a residency at the Groundrush mine in the Tanami Desert in 2007. KIERAN FINNANE reports. Image:Dancing on the Scats by Pamela Lofts and Nic Hempel.
An inter-cultural festival grows deep in the desert. Something like it is mooted for Alice Springs. What can we learn from our northern neighbours?
"Fire is the glow of life. The four winds – from north, south, east, west – control the fire, control us. Milpirri is the story that will ignite the fire of who they are."
'They' are the participants in the Milpirri Festival whose fourth manifestation will be staged at Lajamanu, in the northern reaches of the Tanami Desert, halfway between Alice Springs and Darwin, in October this year.
Speaking was the festival's artistic director, Steve Patrick Jampijinpa, a son of the community and a former school teacher there, now a research fellow at the Australian National University. Mr Patrick gave the keynote address at this week's forum on experimentation and innovation in desert arts.
The motto of the festival is "speak to the land, the land will speak back", he said. The next image he invoked (that I caught from his softly spoken speech delivered as a string of beautiful metaphors) was of "hot air rising, cold air falling" – a metaphor for coming together, possibly in a thunderhead – a "voluminous cloud full of fury".
In coming together "there'll always be a bit of a rough time" but out of the clouds comes "life-giving rain".
That rain has grown the festival, a joint effort of the community and the Darwin-based Tracks Dance Company which has been working with the Warlpiri people of Lajamanu since 1988. So Milpirri is "an inter-cultural venture". KIERAN FINNANE reports.
When Australian novelist Kate Grenville opened Obscured by Light, a collaborative exhibition by Pamela Lofts and Kim Mahood showing at Araluen, she referred to the landscape that they have made their stage as the "scary stuff". It was lightly said but nonetheless an interesting echo of the long held popular conception of the Australian interior as a great and threatening unknown.
A merit of the Lofts and Mahood show is its playfulness and humour in counterbalance to this kind of apprehension, even if there is mostly a comically satiric flavour to their antics in the Tanami Desert. These are mostly enacted by one Violet Sunset (performed by Mahood), a parody of the feminine in gorgeous cocktail frock and kitten heels, created and directed by Lofts. Sometimes though, Mahood the artist and child of the desert peeps through and this sets quite a different emotional tone for the work.
Lofts' photographic images are as gorgeous as the frock – saturated colour, high gloss – and finely attuned to both the drama of the landscape and the story-telling nature of the enterprise. Lofts excels at work in this vein: viewers may recall her wonderfully evocative Country Love series, and more recently, the haunting Requiem for Another. KIERAN FINNANE reviews.