Sunday, 31 August 2008


29 August 2008

Warakurna Artists Win Illustrious Australian Indigenous Award
The significance and value of Aboriginal owned and governed Art Centres in the Australian art industry has been officially recognised and endorsed with Western Desert Mob’s Warakurna Artists winning Reconciliation Australia and BHP Billiton’s Indigenous Governance Awards announced today in Melbourne.

Warakurna Artists of the Warakurna community in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands in Western Australia’s western desert, topped the 2008 Awards for the Art Centre’s strong governance and commitment to consumer education and ethical dealing in the Indigenous art industry.

Warakurna Artists Art Centre Manager, Ms Edwina Circuitt said the award is a credit to the extensive governance training and consumer education programs by the West Australian Government operating in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands to empower Aboriginal artists.

“Warakurna Artists is incredibly proud to be recognised with such a prestigious award. It highlights the significance of being an Aboriginal owned and governed Art Centre business,” she said. “Our Art Centre was established in 2004 to support the production and marketing of culturally intense, artistically rich works of art through a creative facility where the artists and community are the sole benefactors of art sales revenue,” Ms Circuitt said. “Receiving this award is a testament to not only the passionate people of Warakurna community, but the collaborative commitment artists and Art Centres in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands who work together through alliances such as Western Desert Mob to promote positive change in the
Aboriginal art industry.” Ms Circuitt said.

Warakurna artist, community elder and Chairwoman of Warakurna Artists, Mrs Eunice Porter said painting was important to sustain culture within Warakurna community and the Art Centre provides a central facility for social and cultural events as well as a place to paint. “Warakurna is a happy place. We paint our stories to share them with our children. We paint to share our stories with whitefellas. We go on trips to country to paint our stories so our culture will remain strong,” Mrs Porter said.
Western Desert Mob coordinator, Mr Tim Acker said the award is evidence of Warakurna Artists’ passion and dedication to ethical trading in the Aboriginal art industry.
“Warakurna Artist’s Reconciliation Award is timely recognition of Aboriginal owned Art Centres’ importance to encouraging best practice in Australia’s most significant creative industry.

Warakurna Artists is a committed member of Western Desert Mob and fine example how
Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians can work in collaboration,” Mr Acker said.
“Aboriginal owned and governed Art Centres enable individuals to access independent income, improve community wellbeing and empower artists. In addition they maintain transparent operations from artistry through to sale providing art buyers works with the most impeccable provenance on the market,” Mr Acker said.

Media Release: Warakurna Artists Win Illustrious Australia Indigenous Award cont.
Warakurna Artists’ prize includes a $50,000 scholarship for two art centre Executives
to attend an international leadership program in the USA. The prize also includes
$10,000 toward governance training and professional development for Warakurna
Western Desert Mob is an alliance of six Aboriginal owned and governed art centres from the Ngaanyatjarra Lands in Australia’s western deserts.

Western Desert Mob artists are from:
- Warakurna Artists, Warakurna
- Papulankutja Artists, Papulankutja
- Kayili Artists, Patjarr
- Tjanpi Desert Weavers, NPY Lands
- Maruku Arts, Mutitjulu
- Tjarlirli Art, Tjukurla

For more information please contact:
Emily Sharland
0420 988 414

The Indigenous Governance Awards
The IGA is a partnership project is a partnership project between Reconciliation Australia and BHP Billiton designed to identify, analyse, celebrate and promote high achieving Indigenous governance. By boosting awareness about the benefits of good governance, the awards encourage organisations to invest time and energy into this important element of their work for Indigenous communities.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Desart Media Statement
13 August 2008

Over the past few years there have been concerted efforts by many Aboriginal
artists to involve themselves in training about governance and the business
connected with their art. We think it is commendable that artists are engaging
in this debate and it is to their credit that they wish to uphold sound business
management in their industry.
It is important to understand that Central Australian Art Centres continue to
view the Telstra award with the greatest respect.
Desart and other Aboriginal arts organisations are engaged with MAGNT to
discuss how entry conditions for the award might be improved in the future
and this will involve consideration of the new Indigenous Australian Art
Commercial Code of Conduct.
Desart believe there is an important role for MAGNT in providing leadership to
other awards and prizes around the country to increase the level of scrutiny
about arts business practice in their conditions of entry, particularly in relation
to Indigenous visual arts and artists.

John Oster
Executive Officer
Further information
NAVA provides information about the professional conduct of art awards and prizes. See
The Australia Council for the Arts publishes a useful guide ‘Protocols for producing
Indigenous Australian visual arts’.
13 August 2008

Aboriginal Art Organisations Speak Out

Forty three Aboriginal Art Centres, representing more than one thousand Indigenous
artists have united to speak out on the devastating effects that art dealing outside
the Art Centres has on Aboriginal communities.
The Artists and Art Centres are speaking through their peak industry organisations; Desart and
Ananguku Arts.
John Oster, Executive Director of Desart said while the media coverage has unearthed significant
issues concerning artistic, financial and trade practices; only half the story is being told.
“We seem to have forgotten about art buyers in this equation. Consumer awareness and informed
buying of Aboriginal art is the critical act that can rebalance the exchange between artist and
consumer,” Oster said.
“Importantly, the benefits are for the art buyer as much as for the artist. In buying from an Art
Centre, consumers are accessing work of the highest integrity and quality,” he said.
Oster added that Art Centres offer the necessary protection for Aboriginal art purchasers by truly
guaranteeing the provenance of all their works of art.
According to the two Aboriginal art organisations, purchasing Aboriginal art and craft sourced from
Aboriginal owned and governed Art Centre enterprises is critical to remote area livelihoods and for
the continued growth and health of the market.
Contrary to some reports, Oster said Art Centres are owned and managed by the Aboriginal artists.
“Let me make this very clear. Art Centres are powerful examples of Aboriginal owned enterprises.
The artists are in charge of their own destiny, how their art is sold and where and what they paint,”
he said.
“Aboriginal owned and governed Art Centres are incorporated under Federal or State legislation and
meet the highest standards of transparency and accountability,” Oster added.
“There has been significant coverage regarding the importance of the provenance of artworks in
terms of resale value in the secondary market,” he said.
Oster adds that Art Centres play a powerful role in the art world because many galleries and major
national institutions are now only choosing to show Art Centre produced work.
“Galleries know that Art Centre works represent quality, integrity, authenticity and strong
provenance. They also know the works of art that they display and sell to their clients reflect their
own business image and ethics,” he said.
“You need to do more than sell a painting to transform poverty,” Oster said.

“Art Centres have worked for three decades and will carry on doing so in remote communities.
They continue to show why, artistically and economically, they are so important and bring
considerable benefits to an artist, their family and their wider community,” he said.
“Art Centres employ a whitefella manager to help them negotiate the whitefella world. But the
business is owned by the artists and it is they who employ the manager. Decisions are made by the
artists themselves,” he said.
“In working with artists everyday I have seen firsthand how profound the benefits of an Aboriginalowned
and managed business in remote communities actually is,” he said.
According to Liz Tregenza, General Manager of Ananguku Arts, “The Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands
are home to Australia’s oldest Aboriginal art centre (Ernabella celebrates its 60th birthday this year)
and some of the youngest,” she said.
“In communities on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands, Art Centres act as functional community
centres providing a range of socio-cultural services in addition to fostering artists’ professional
development. In this region Art Centres are usually the only source of external income other than
government funding.
“One of the key characteristics of Art Centres is that they work with artists to identify, support and
develop young and emerging artists,” Tregenza said.
Other important aspects of community-based Art Centres are:
Art Centres are accountable. They are based on best practice systems that are stable,
transparent and for the benefit of all artists.
Art Centres are artist owned and managed
They support all artists – emerging and well known.
The benefit of an Art Centre stays in their community, reinvested in the Art Centres’
ongoing operations.
Youth work alongside older artists – supporting the transmission of culture.
A wide range of cultural and social support is offered in communities of severe
They offer realistic remote area livelihoods for Aboriginal people.

For more information please contact:
Emily Sharland
The Hub Marketing Communications
0420 988 414
I had a very quick trip to Darwin for the Western Desert Mob meeting. We are planning our Melbourne exhibition and our "Buy right way" campaign, amongst other things.

I will post the press statement issued by the group and the statement read at our press conference by John Oster of Desart.

What is interesting to me is the reporting that came from our press meeting. It is clear to me that there is no comprehension of the importance of community based art centres or the energy that the art centre members put into understanding and working their business in remote and difficult conditions. The journalists seem rude and arrogant in their attitude to indigenous art centre executive members and their capacity to learn and work in their art centre.

I spoke to Peter Shepherd this week to talk about our business training sessions and the work we have done over the last 5 years. We were due to have our next training meeting at Warakurna this week, due to the very unexpected and sad death of Mr. Ivan Shepherd, the meeting has been called off for now. Peter and I feel we have come a long way, it has been a big ask getting these guys, some of them who remember the first coming of white man, to take on the management of art centres that require government regulated performance.

At Blackstone we are trying with the assistance of Desart and Ngaanyatjarra Council to bring young community members into formalized training that will give them the skills and desire to participate more fully in the management of the art centre, take the burden off the elders who have carried this task until now.

A business training meeting with Peter Shepherd at Blackstone in early 2006

We have had to learn and accept concepts that are quite foreign to us, deal with a world that we have never seen and of which we have no understanding. Be confused by the whitefella market and their quirky and strange take on what is good art and their lack of understanding of what is truly important.

Our methods are adapted to what we have found practical, we work with an interpreter, we do a lot of writing on large sheets of butchers paper, we stop between training sessions and the artists meet and talk amongst themselves to discuss what they have heard and to bring back questions and give directions about some business process and future directions.

This is an intense and serious time, to suggest that the artists are not participating in the management and decision making of their art centre is insulting in the least.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

By Amy Bowman

.............(Hear ME)

In the beginning when the World was still new,
our own kind, our own people, was all that we knew.
Our keeper the Earth we did treat with respect,
in return she made sure all our needs were met.
Food was good, renewable and plenty,
diseases were few in our isolated sanctuary.

One day a new man, he came to our shores,
his face was all pasty and what strange clothing he adorned.
He said, “Let us be friends, there is no need to fight,
so long as you give up your land and your rights.”
How strange were these men with their fences and deeds,
how hostile they became when we would not leave.

This is our country, our home, where else could we go?
You ask us to leave our ancestry, our identities, all that we know.
With no other choice we prepared for the fight,
our spears were no match for so many men with their weapons of might.
We were herded like cattle and murdered on sight,
a mere inconvenience to the lives of the white!

The next thing we knew the missionaries, they came.
They cried, “Stop with this slaughter we are sure they can come tame.
Poor wretched things surely there souls can be saved,
we will teach them to be like us, teach them good Christian ways.”
“Let us take care of you, keep you safe keep you clean,
so long as you give up your beliefs and your Dreaming.”

We are a people with a culture rich and strong,
you ask us to give up our essence, our song.
You claimed we could not be controlled, we were too heavily tainted,
so you focused on the children, you kept us separated.
Claimed it was for the best, for our lives were unclean,
you took hold of our children, any way you could, by all means.

Two hundred years on, once more our culture grows strong,
yet still many people cannot see what was so wrong.
You ask us, “why so angry?” “Forget the past, no need to feel so dejected.”
“After all we said sorry, explained that it was all well intended.”
We thank you, we do, for this chance to move forward,
but please do not ask us to forget the pain we have endured.

The past is as strong as it was yesterday to our people,
yet we can never be broken for a reason good and simple.
Remember when admiring the beauty of the land, the country,
our ancestor’s spirits still dwell in the mountains, the rivers and the gum tree!
I will leave you now to consider my words
and all that I ask, is that this story be heard.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Jean Lane, miniature work on spinifex paper.

Saturday morning and I am listening to Andrew Ford on the music show, talking about Stockhausen. It is quite bizar, how far from this world of blackstone is Stockhausen!

The advertisements have gone into the paper for workers at Blackstone. Art Workers for the paper business and outreach program and a new manager.

I had begun to think that I was never going to get the projects I have started, off the ground, the new building would never be finnished. Well things are moving on and now fresh blood is needed to pick up the pace. I have loved this job but someone with new energy will need to take it on now.

There are always big challenges, which for me, is part of the attraction.

I have a friend from Ringer's Soak coming up to help out while the staffing situation is sorted. I am really looking forward to this. Jenny is leaving Perth today and driving up in her red troupie, the mob will go wild for buying that one, hard to explain to the mob that not everyone wants to sell their yultu. I have the same problem with my little red 4 door toyota ute. She has picked up some very good quality plywood. We are going to get the artists to design and work the Wati Kutjarra design with hot wire on the ply and then bolt it to the new art centre building. It was kantjupayi Benson who was so despertae to get that Wati Kutjarra story on the front of our art centre, well it has only taken five years but by god we are going to get it there.

Jodie will be back for a few weeks with the bookbinding workshop, something we have talked of and dreamed of for some time. I am so excited about this project. There is so much interest in our paper products and this will be a great adjunct to the range.

On Friday I started setting up the paper finnishing room, there is still a lot to do on every facet of the move and set up, but Joy Lyons has agreed to act s supervisor for the paper project and I have a wonderful young woman called Valencia working in the art centre who shows great skill in just about any task I give her, be it cleaning, packaging, paint mixing or simply design work on the paper. I want to have everything nice for them on Monday to start work in earnest in the new building.

Spoke to Alison Kelly Gallery on Friday also. We will be doing some work with her in late 2008 and through 2009. I spoke about the fine art work we are developing with the paper as well. Exciting times!

Well Science Show time now after which I need to do a subtantial clean up in the house so that jenny and her dog have somewhere to settle for their stay.