Sunday, 18 February 2007

This is the media release that WDM sent out for Australia Day. I thought it may be of interest to those who have not followed the developement of the Western Desert Mob. cheers, Dianna

24 January 2007


26 January 2007

Aboriginal artists unite to stand strong on Australia Day

As a defiant and bold step toward maintaining strong, sustainable, Aboriginal-owned enterprises, an alliance of Indigenous artists and art centres from the Ngaanyatjarra Lands in Western Australia today announced the formation of the Western Desert Mob.

The Western Desert Mob is a powerful coalition of Aboriginal art centres, painters, woodcarvers and weavers from the region - united to ensure the wealth of talent and economic returns are retained in the community.

While considerable contention and debate continues in the art world concerning authenticity, ownership and the impact of art dealers in the remote communities, the Western Desert Mob has been formed to take action to safe guard the ethos of building strong community, family and culture.

The communities and art centres represented in the Western Desert Mob include renowned and well-established artists from Warakurna, Papulankutja, Kayili, Maruku and Tjanpi.

According to Project Coordinator Tim Acker, Western Desert Mob focuses on celebrating artists across the region and is anticipated to develop into one of the most significant Aboriginal art groups in Australia.

“There is significant contention in the industry at present, we want to rise above this and show the strength and positive impact the art centres are having in this region. The art centres, as part of the Western Desert Mob are one of the most positive examples of Aboriginal owned and managed art enterprises in Australia,” Tim said.

The Western Desert Mob aims to strengthen the connections and continuity between artists across this desert region and support for the artists from each centre is crucial to the future of the Western Desert Mob.

Warakurna Art Centre Manager, Edwina Circuitt, along with others in the region is constantly inspired by the strong artistic culture of the Western Desert Mob Artists.

“This group of like-minded artists, demonstrate the uncompromising approach to living in, and maintaining cultural links to, country, ensuring culture, creativity and stories are carried on to the future generations. This can only be done if the artists live in their community to pass on their wealth of talent,” Edwina said.

“We need to celebrate the exceptional artworks being produced from the region by artists living and painting in-country - sharing stories of country, culture and family,” Edwina said.

According to the Western Desert Mob, authentic art is centred on the artist’s physical and spiritual connection to country.

“Living and working or creating in the land of their birth is vital for an artist’s connection to country. This must remain intact and uncompromised because passing on these important stories to young people is a critical means of keeping culture strong and vital and is a crucial role of the art centres,” Edwina said.

“In some cases, if there was no art centre in the community, there would be no community,” Edwina said.

There is a significant difference between privately owned art businesses and community owned and managed art centres. Western Desert Mob members are Aboriginal owned and governed art businesses, with transparent operations and where 65% of the art proceeds return directly to the artist and the remainder reinvested into the art centre business.

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Saturday, 17 February 2007

I was going to continue the car stories, I have many and at the moment I am knee deep in car problems. The mechanic who has been missing for some time, has surfaced and it may be that some of these will be sorted next week. I have just read yesterdays entry and have decided enough of yurltus. The picture I have put up is the latest finished Mr. Forbes. In truth the hours are not waisted, one can get it in perspective, you can see the time is very well spent in deed.

I just have no idea how I am going to get, what is to be done, done. I will endeavour to catch up on the accounts today and then devote my time to the Esub tomorrow. Tim Acker will be up late Sunday night and we will be doing some filming of artists for a couple of days. I will get Tim to have a quick look over my esub and now I have the last 6 months figures I will use that as a basis for the budget. I need this out of the way as I head down to Perth for the Western Desert Launch on Thursday. will need to pack up the Museum display and ship that to Adelaide and be back at Blackstone on Monday to get ready for the Adelaide Trip. Hopefully the mechanic will still want to go down for the Adelaide 500 and I will not have to do the driving.

Toby will keep the paint and canvas up in the art centre while I am away. I think it will be quiet for most of the time in any case as there will be a few away with me and a few away in Perth for the Perth Festival. There is also "Business" on the lands and many will be involved in that. I just hope I can get the painting moment up when I get back so we continue to gather good works for the Randell Lane Show in Perth in June.

With Erin back, we hope to start work on a major spinifex paper mache sculpture. An idea we have had for a while.

On Thursday I was devastated to find that the builders had incorrectly put two house foundations on the art centre land allocated for the new paper making building ... such a shit and I am not sure that we will come up with any area half as suitable elsewhere in the community. Not practical out here to have the builder dig all the concrete and plumbing up however. throwing a tantrum is about the only satisfaction I can get. Gordon the CDA and I are working on an alternative. the paperwork and government notifications are going to be a pain in the arse.

Bloomington Indiana Public Radio on the Internet, fantastic night (over there) of jazz for the moment. Just the stuff I need drive the accounting process.

Friday, 16 February 2007

Photo of Yurltu by Thisbe Purich.

Thursday, money day. Not much to hand out today, the list is on the door, only two names on it. I never post the serious money names in any case as the pressure on them for hand outs would be too great. The list on the door is an attempt to limited the number of requests for money so I can try to continue working. The preparation of canvas, paint, phone calls packing and shipping is a constant. I can be up to my eyeballs in canvas and paint with the phone ringing and still have up to 20 people calling my name and wanting immediate attention. I have described this as like spending the day tumbling inside a cement mixer, it is the best description I can come up with.

11.00 am and Mr. Forbes comes in. I have a canvas prepared for him and he sets about his work. His work is constantly interrupted by his asking for information about his yurltu, Toyota. I have impounded in my yard this yurltu, waiting the mechanic. One of Mr. forbes' grandsons has done a good job of buggering up something in the workings and it needs fixing. Mr. Forbes has decided to sell the vehicle, his daughter is interested in buying it. I wont let it go until I know it is roadworthy. Happy that Mr. Forbes has at last decided to rid himself of the cursed yurltu I make plans for its repair and supply to his daughter. Mr. Forbes spends 7 hours with me in my office in Thursday, we then go to my back yard to check that the yurltu is still there. Again we talk of the mechanic and the likely day of his coming. I have been able to do nothing but attend to Mr. Forbes and talk of the car. finally I drive him to Ruby, one of his daughters. It is After 7.00 pm and I have done bugger all, all day. I do get a call from Simon, the mechanic and he is coming early next week, well thank god for that!

Friday, surely Mr. Forbes will be tired after the huge effort yesterday.

Jimmy is in early and enthused about a new big canvas. I set him up with one to take home and a fresh box of paints. This should be a good one for the Perth Exhibition in June. I have a small but growing, good collection of works corralled in the office waiting this event.

Elaine needs a quiet chat, we talk about her need for a yurltu. We talk about how desperate she is for a yurltu, how the desire for a yurltu keeps her awake at night, she is worrying for her own yurltu. Elaine has had money to buy a yurltu a few times this year, each time she has chosen to do something kind for her family instead. This time we have agreed, I will save her paintings instead of her money and when I have enough paintings I will sell them and get her a yurltu. this way she will not have money to give away as she has done during the past year.

11.00 am, in comes Mr. Forbes. He wants a new canvas. As thrilling as it is to have him working at all, and to have him working in my office, I want to sit down and cry, I just need some time to catch up on the workload and another 7 hours with Mr. Forbes and his concerns for his car is not going to achieve that end. Mr. Forbes is on fire, he has a vision, he will sell his old yurltu, paint a whole lot of paintings and then buy a bus. A bus that can take all his family for trips. Minyma, Wati and Tjitji! Mr. Forbes is very excited about this prospect and Dianna is wondering where the hell she is going to find a bus that is economically possible and that will have the endurance capacity to see Mr. Forbes and his family multitudes happy for a few months at least.

The ESub looms.

Monday, 12 February 2007

Friday 9th February. We say goodbye to Reggie Jackson. I asked Katherine, his daughter if I could put this picture up. This is a man who I will miss and miss and miss. A true bush man, a man of great fun, a pleasure and privilege to have known.

At his funeral service they talked of his lovely wife Pantjiti who died last year and of his second wife Joyce McLean, now widowed. They talked of his seven children, his sense of fun, the seriousness of his participation in Law and Culture. They also made mention of his commitment to the Christian Faith. This took me by surprise but then I remembered his participation in the Denis Forbes memorial service last year. I remember the shock of seeing him clutching the bible and saying prayers.

Reggie always used to tell me that he was from Jameson, lived at Wannarn and worked at Blackstone. He loved his puppies. He was very much his own man, a striking individual, not a conformist. I have heard him called "somewhat of a loose canon" .... what ever he was it was great to know him.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Sunday, a morning spent with American Public Radio, just love sunday mornings. I have come down with some flue .... I guess tired from last week and in close contact with a variety of likely bacteria, I have managed to catch something. Hopefully it will run its course quickly. I am too busy to be sick.

Last Thursday morning. The day started with artists meetings, some individual groups wanted to meet with Peter, Amata and Warakurna in particular. I wanted my mob to meet but it was too hard to get them together. We were all a little on edge, thinking of the afternoon meeting with Desart. Most of us thought that Wingellina would resign its artists from Desart at the scheduled meeting between John Oster and the Wingellina Governing Committee.

Mid morning we got a call from John Oster informing us that he was delayed at Wingellina. The Chairman was at Blackstone in the sorry camp and the Governing Committee meeting could not go ahead until he was there. Someone was on their way to Collect Mr. Foster, the chairman.

John Ioannou came to collect Mr. Foster.

John Oster arrived at Blackstone quicker than we had anticipated considering the delayed meeting. We spoke to the artists groups and arranged to meet around 4.00 pm after the shop shut.

Everyone was anxious to find out what was going on and we met a little earlier than 4.00 pm. John Ioannou arrived by charter flight with Winston Mitchell.

We gathered at the 50cent piece and John Oster convened the meeting. He advised us that Wingellina Council has resigned Irrunytju artists from Desart and that they had confirmed the appointment of John Ioannou as Manager of the artists group. He advised us that the meeting at Wingellina had been a respectful one on all sides. That Irrunytju Artists Group would no longer be represented by Desart, they would go their own way. There was considerable sadness with the artists group at this news.

John Ioannou asked to speak to the group and Mr. Ivan Shepherd the chairman of Desart agreed to have Mr. Ioannou address the meeting.

John Ioannou assured the meeting that he intended to run the Irrunytju Artists Group with honesty and integrity. He said he was an honest man and not happy about the rumours he heard about himself on the lands. He also advised the group that he had undertaken to restrict his activities to Wingellina, that the Governing Council had requested he not go to other communities to gather artists. He said however, that any artist that wanted to work with him and that came to Wingellina, would be welcome. There was some discussion between the art managers and John Ioannou. A number of artists indicated they were not happy with the arrangement and that the art centre should be independent from the Governing Council, the council should not be making decisions for the artists with little or no consultation.

John Oster asked John Ioannou and the Art Centre Managers to leave the meeting so that the artists could have an unencumbered discussion. We did so and no doubt there will be reporting by desart from this meeting in due course.

It was Edwina and I that wrote to Desart and requested a review of the employment and management process at Wingellina and the artists group. John Oster wanted statements from Irrunytju Artists direct and Nyakul Dawson (now sadly deceased), an important artists and elder and Bell Davidson an artists, elder and registered Ngaanyatjarra interpreter came to the Patjarr Artists Group meeting in September last year, to talk to John Oster. He met privately with the two Irrunytju artists. John Oster then discussed the matter with the Desart Executive who agreed to the formal enquiry and the appointment of Mr. Bell to undertake that enquiry.

It is clear from Mr. Foster that the Wingellina Executive are very happy with the appointment of John Ioannou and I can see that there could be a variety of reasons for that. Not the least being that it will take a big pressure of the work of the Exec. as they have handed the day to day running of the group to John Ioannou. There has been a number of art managers appoint in recent years and this no doubt has been a burden to the Wingellina Executive. Of course had the Artists Group been separately incorporated and the appointment of the art manager been in the hands of the an artists group executive with the assistance of Desart or Indigenous Economic Developement, some of this burden would not have existed. still nothing is that simple and ever easy out here in remote communities.

Our concern is now for the many artists who appear to be disenfranchised by the Wingellina Executive decision. The number of artists who feel they were not consulted and who are not in the top echelon or high money bracket or are too old, frail or lack confidence to make alternative arrangements. After all Wingellina is their home. Community based and indigenous owned art centres are more that just centres to produce saleable product. They act as centres of learning, support for culture, assist in social activity and the promotion of good mental and physical health.

The general feeling from the Thursday meeting is one of great sadness. Hopefully we will be able to maintain a cordial and friendly relationship with Irrunytju and its management.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

where exactly do I start........

Monday, the Wigellina funeral, Mr. Dawson, Mr. Woods and Mr. Roberts ...... a huge and dreadfully sad event, family, friends and dignetaries. Mr. Dawson in particular attracted whitefellas who wanted to show respect for this wonderful and important old man. This was a very somber and respectful funeral with the odd mix of christian and traditional aboriginal sentiment.

I did speak to the art manager at Irrunytju while I was in Wingellina, he indicated he was not interested in the artists governance sessions or the Desart Review meeting. Not surprising I guess.

Tuesday, at last we held out AGM or should I say our two AGMs, one after the other. Nothing like a sorry camp to get the mob together. We elected our new office bearers and I live (perhaps falsely) in the hope that with Jimmy Donegan on the Desart Executive and now on the Papulankutja Artists executive, we may have some better engagement in management from the artists group.

All morning the groups of artists and managers arrived at Blackstone for the governance and professional development meetings. Maruku from Muti had arrived earlier and Peter took the opportunity of spending some alone time with that mob. No doubt the sorry camp for Mr. Jackson assisted with the numbers of artists who came, still it was wonderful to have such a diverse and interested group. Even without the managers from Warburton and Patjarr we have good representation from them as well as Mutitjulu, Amata, Kulka, Nyapari, Warakurna and of course Blackstone. Amanda from Nyapari went with Edwina from Warakurna and collected artists from Wingellina (Irrunytju) to participate as well. We were all thinking of the Desart meeting which would be held on Thursday. Amata and warakurna took the opportunity of meetings with Peter without the big group and Kathy from Maruku gave tremendous assistance with the interpreting.

Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday and Thursday mornings were filled with art business discussions, many of the artists had never been to such meetings before and it was good to see the the regulars talking up and helping the newcomers as needed. We had over 70 artists participating in the sessions.

Tim Acker from Aboriginal Economic Development came on the monday and he, Edwina and myslef finalized some of the arrangements for the Western Desert Mob launch and timing for the filming with the PR mob for TV.

Peter our Governance man brought his sidekick Iain for the experience of our training sessions and Iain with Brian from Nyapari was a great help with the BBQ lunches for the mob. Thank god for that as it was exreemly hot and I was not looking forward to the task myself.

bugger!!!!!! have just lost all the reporting on the Desart meeting. Will refocus, the energy is gone for now ... will continue this a bit later.

Saturday, 3 February 2007

Saturday morning, Alan Saunders on the internet radio. Alan could talk about bubble plastic for all I care, I just love listening to him.

Went to Warburton yesterday. The culture centre is hositng an exhibition from Papulankutja Artists in August 2007. This will be a history of Blackstone shown thought its art, crafts and through its artists. Speaking to Albie,(Warburton Arts Project) Damien (general boss cocky) and Preston (chairman Warburton) I realized how unformed my concept is and how much thinking there is to be done. When I found I would be meeting with Damien and Preston as well as Albie, I was a little concerned about being ambushed. I think however that Damien in particular, was able to focus my thoughts and I have come back to Blackstone with a clearer vision and better topics to discuss with the artists. Albie and I had talked of art centres and their place in the sustainablility of community. Damien put the view that sustainability does not simply mean financial sustainablilty. There must also be cultural sustainablily, a purpose for the community to exist.

Last year I travelled with three of my senior female artists. They spent time explaining to me that Blackstone (Papulankutja) was like the axle holding the wheel. The dreamings and creation stories surrounded blackstone, blackstone was like the axle, securing the wheel of stories, they lived at blackstone to look after the creation stories, to give continuity to life and culture.

Damien felt that I should somehow weave that idea into our exhibition and the sustainablility of the community. There is to be a beautiful catelogue produced with the exhibtion, this will be a lovely record for Papulankutja Artists and we want to get it right.

While at Warburton, I also spoke to Sue Clarke about the May Festival. The first week of May is always our Blackstone Festival, our Happy Festival. This year the Music Festival has decided to move to Blackstone and combine or run alongside our Festival. We have agreed to meet in Blackstone on the 27th March to fine tune arrangements. The music festival will include a "Name" band, Battle of the Bands competition for local musicians and two days of Inma. The Blalckstone festival will kick off on the 1st May with art and craft workshops, a beauty salon and Desart Ng Regional Artists meeting, the weekend giving way to the sporting carnival, which will now run alongside the music festival.

This weekend I need to finalize the coding for the last quarter's financials, I am way behind with this and dare not leave it another day. I need to get working on the ESub funding submission for 2007/8, due on the 21st February. From now to the 21s February I have two funerals, the artists group governance and professional developement meetings, the Desart meeting with artists to discuss the report on Irruntyju, a visit by the PR company for filming of art centre and artists for the Western Desert Launch, the trip to Perth for the Launch will start on the 21st February. I need the last quarter financial reports to assist with setting the budget that I will submitt on the ESub.

I am fortunate to have Tania from Desart on loan this week. In my absence, she held the centre together yesterday. I note that she downloaded my esub stuff and is setting about recording the small cultural collection we have at Pap. Art.