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.