WEEKS 4 - 7

Due to my encounter and continuous work with the Shire and specifically Elaine Labuschagne, the Heritage Manager, I was able to meet with two women of the Kuwarra language group and part of Wongatha nation - Geraldine and Luxie Hogarth.

Geraldine Hogarth was given an OBE in 2016 for her long-term work in hearing health and language work within her community. This was a ‘happy accident’ as the Shire had planned to put together an exhibition, highlighting Geraldine’s award. However, due to unforeseen circumstances this had been delayed and not yet happened. So, I suggested that that I could help, which helped me to meet and get to know Geraldine and Luxie, her mother as well as Auntie Gay- another elder from the Laverton community.

I worked with Elaine, Geraldine and Luxie organising hours of interviews (week 3-4) that I transcribed and made a selection from, which supported Geraldine’s explanation around her health work, her family history and information of the area and their community at large. This was edited with Geraldine, Elanie and Geraldine’s old teacher Margee. This was then made into a public display in honour of her work, which she wanted to share with the whole community (declaring without her community she wouldn’t have been able to do the work, so the OBE therefore belong to all, not just her). Geraldine is also adamant that it’s about sharing and inspiring, to bring the past forth to strengthen peoples understanding of difference in cultures, about belonging and education.

My last week in Leonora was occupied with working in the Shire office creating a display with images, and texts (from interviews I conducted). The display opened on the 11th November 2016 at the Shire office. It was a celebration of recognition, not just to her work but also to the wider community. That morning a lot of tears were shed. A relative of Geraldine asked me if I couldn’t come to Menzies where she lived, and work on her family history too. I replied that I would love too, but am returning to Europe in a few days. I also said that I was just a tool in this instance, the work was Geraldine’s and Luxie’s, not mine. And I like that. That I can be a tool, a resource to heighten awareness of something I find incredibly important; the impact of colonialism, hidden or rather histories not brought forth as a cause of colonialism, but also an acknowledgement of other knowledge and how that knowledge has survived outside the mechanism of Western science and academia. How learning can take place and what knowledge actually is, and how this knowledge should be included, not excluded. We see things differently through different cultures. There is an inherent understanding of being in landscape and knowing of that land, learnt over thousands of years throughout different Aboriginal communities. And their knowledge was used a lot by white people arriving, especially finding water and gold, nickel etc. and often high jacked by some ‘explorer’.

It’s a display that can inform tourists, visitors and the community about her work and the research into Aboriginal people’s varying language groups (particularly the Wongatha nation and Kuwarra speakers). It creates an open awareness and insight locally and beyond that highlights and celebrates Aboriginal people’s knowledge, work, and different languages across the area of Kalgoorlie, Laverton, Leonora and Cosmo Newbury. This is work made by Geraldine and Luxie developed and researched with the Goldfields Aboriginal Language Centre. Link here

Week 3

Monday: I took part of the gathering (assembly) in the school to inform the students that I was doing a second tie dye work shop on the Tuesday, but this time only for girls. This took place at the youth centre Tuesday. Also visited the school to discuss with Art / PE teacher of what I can do in school. Followed a couple of lessons.

Went to buy ingredients for tie dye: Red Cabbage, turmeric and red onion.

Went for dinner with Elaine from the Shire and Gemma a flown in conservation architect.

Tuesday: Went for a walk to the ghost town Gwalia. A hot day. Saw a brown snake. Although it had been killed I am stepping carefully from now on!!

Met with Elaine from the Shire and Gemma who is documenting and reporting on the State Hotel possible restoration (under ownership of St Barbara mine). Was able to access the inside of this old hotel and photographed the old place.

Went back into town to prepare the workshop for the girls. Brought lots of tinned fruit as I am using the tins for another project (camera obscura).

5 girls came to the workshop, all of Aboriginal heritage. They really enjoyed learning about making own dye and using it on fabric. This was my second ACT_belong workshop. Images to follow.

Wednesday: I went to the Medec centre for 3 hours (city link) and met with the women painting in there. I found some great artists in this group that I am hoping to work with at a later stage. I am teaching a couple of them (on request!) the basics of portraiture through drawing rather than painting (as I don’t paint).

In the afternoon an Aboriginal couple came to knock on my door. Samantha and James (not so friendly with my hosts). They are all from different parts and many groups are divided. I enjoyed chatting with them and they were curious about my interaction with Walkatjurra. I told them about IAS and my work/research. James is a brilliant Emu egg shell carver. He brought a whole heap and they are lovely. I bought one egg from him- the one about ghosts. As one of the figures-, which I told him, looks like Edvard Munch painting the ‘scream’. I appreciated that they made contact despite their discrepancies with Walkatjurra. My hope is that I can bring together something ‘outside’ of the current and ongoing disputes that only focus on artistic work rather than political overlaps. We’ll see.

Thursday: I was offered to go to Menzies with Elaine from the Shire. Menzie is a town part of the Shire. It’s mainly a Ghost town but I managed to have a coffee (a nice coffee too) and a cake. It was a mining town for around 20 years and then dilapidated. This had a harsh effect on the aboriginal groups that had to get trained to work for the incoming white people. They had a visual exhibit around town (one street) with cut out metal figures describing the lives of the aboriginal people in and of this town. But at the coffee shop I got chatting to an older couple and it transpired that the woman grew up in Menzies living in the old butcher shop. They had come over to also visit Leonora / Gwalia after seeing the exhibition in Perth that Elaine organised. They were very concerned and worried if I travelled alone. I told them I didn’t as I was with Elaine (the woman who got them to go to visit Gwalia). Small world.

In the information office I chatted with the girl working there and it transpired she is related to Geraldine Hogarth- an Aboriginal woman from Leonora whom won an award for her work on hearing and language. Geraldne was nne of the people I wanted to meet as part of my initial proposal for Leonora. So that was interesting.

Elaine then drove me to Lake Ballard where Anthony Gormely has created 51 metal figures scattered around a salt lake. It was an amazing landscape and I really enjoyed seeing more of the surroundings. One thing one should be aware of coming to Leonora- it is still heavily mined around there. This means strolling out in the landscape, cycling etc. is not so easy as there are many many restricted sites. So unless driving, its very easy to feel ‘stuck’ in Leonora. I have gone out cycling and you have to cycle atleast 15KM to get ‘out’ to access land. This can become a bit dangerous due to heat, sun, road trains and wild animals. So the outings with Elaine have been highly important as part of my journey.

Friday: Geraldine Hogarth won an award based on her work in the community around hearing and language. She donated the medals to the Shire, as she says; “they belong to everyone, not just her”. I really wanted to meet her and have tried and prompt this numerous times without success. Then Elaine told me about a display that the Shire is doing and spoke about Geraldine. So I asked if I could help. Elaine was very happy to introduce me and I had an opportunity to meet Geraldine this very Friday. She brought her mother Luxie to the meeting and we had a great 4-hour conversation, which I recorded and will transcribe. I really feel she offered a much more in-depth knowledge about Aboriginal culture, her own background and schooling and also her relation to the land. We went through a lot of laughter and a few sad things. But I feel that Geraldine and I will talk much more. I will help with the design, the text and getting the display finished before I leave. This should be done and presented on the 10th Nov.

So I got quite a busy schedule the next 2 weeks.

Saturday: I was gonna go to Malcolm dam, something Geraldine spoke a but neither Mauvheen or Kado knew about this gathering and in the end I couldn’t get there. I was also quite exhausted on the Saturday. A day of rest.

Sunday: Elaine drove me out to Darlot country- this is where Geraldine grew up. It’s part of a heritage loop and both Elaine and Geraldine said it’s important that I see the landscape. We also managed to get to the Granites (as part of the loop) and I recorded some stones with low frequencies. We were out for 6 hours so it was quite a long day and around 35 degrees so quite warm. We also found plenty of snake traces. Stepping carefully…..

 

 

 

 

Week 2

Week 2 has been dedicated to ‘finding my feet’. Since my project is now not solely connected to the Walkatjurra Cultural Centre but also to the Shire, my responsibilities have also extended. This has had the positive effect of allowing me to meet and be introduced to the wider community of Leonora.

On the Tuesday morning I joined the elderly group at the Information centre. The group consists of women and men who have lived around Leonora for 30 years or more, all of them are white. One woman, was at one point living in Gwalia, the ghost town situated 2km outside of Leonora. Gwalia is a heritage site and is currently being preserved and restored.

On the Wednesday I went to the youth centre to remind people of my presence but also to share fruits that I had at home. We made a big fruit salad and some of the kids told me they tasted pineapple for the first time. There I also met Darcy (Dardawarra), an Aboriginal activist who works to spread awareness and recognition of Aboriginal land right in and around Leonora. He was been given permission to make a sign at the entry of Leonora to spread this message. The sign should be installed the end of October and it probably won’t be without disputes between the three local Aboriginal groups and possibly some of the white population. We have to wait and see what happens after the sign is up!

I arranged to meet with the Walkatjurra Cultural Centre (my hosts) as I offered to help them improve their website to enable easy browsing and present their projects and mission more clearly. I met with Kubi, son of Deeva and Kado who run Walkatjurra Cultural Centre, and his cousin Kyle, both have an interest in web design and online culture. We sat down and discussed what components of the website should be kept and how they should be re-worked. I suggested using WIX, a free website builder that should make it easier for them to update and upload without having to write code. This can make their site more active and cost effective because the updating work can be spread among several people rather than depending on one person’s skills.  After our meeting on Friday, Kubi showed me what he had done and it looked really good and clear.

On Wednesday morning me Kado and Deeva headed to the local school to chat with the Head teacher Mrs Maxfield. Deeva has a project that she has started with the school to fight truancy. I went too to introduce myself and make the school aware of my presence in town and of what I can offer. I have started a quick start project to raise awareness of recycling. I am planning to use bottle tops to create a sculptural piece, but materials are hard to get here, so it might end up as a scarecrow for their garden. During this meeting we also discussed raising knowledge of Aboriginal languages in this area, which is something Kado is very keen on. I am sketching a visual proposal for their newly built fence, its aims to present inclusion and language as a visual tool for knowledge. This might be something to work on during my next visit. I am keen on incorporating all Aboriginal languages in the area.

After the school meeting we then went to visit Kado’s sister-in-law Mauhveen to introduce myself and discuss the possibility of going out bush with the women. We also went to meet with Mauhveen’s sister, Fifi who also works at the school. She has a small animal sanctuary where raises rescued Kangaroo babies. It was great to see her work with both animals and children. Amazing lady.

On the Friday evening I met up with local artist Roderick Sprigg who is starting a podcast from Leonora, focussing on art and culture, He wanted to interview me so we were chatted for a good 3 hours.

On the Saturday Kado took me to the country. We visited Mertendale, an abandoned homestead village for pastoral work, after which we drove to look at a mountain rift that extends a long way through Western Australia. On our way there we saw a huge goanna which I managed to get quite close to and photograph. Late we went to see caves, rock-holes and granites. While we travelled through the land Kado told about the Echidna and Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming (Tjurkurrpa) which runs through this area. We also looked at archaeological finding such as early tools left behind by Aboriginal people. He also taught me about bush food and a bit on hunting. We picked bush food, a lime green little seed that tasted like pea shoot and pumpkin seed, apparently is full of protein. In Ngalia language its called Lingi-Lingi (might be spelled differently) and in Wongi (which is the name of the native people of this area) tjallpka (might be misspelled).  During our drive home we saw a potato and onion lying on the road. Kado jumped out of the car and told me that when Aboriginal groups go out bush, they often just bring a couple of vegetable which they use as compliment when cooking the bush meat such as kangaroo or goanna. Following that dirt road on our way home we encountered the massive big moon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 1

I arrived in the Goldfields. I am very jetlagged. The town Leonora is quite small with around 650 inhabitants. It was much colder than normal for this time of year and I was glad I brought my coat. When I arrived at my accommodation it was clear that no one had been staying there for a while. There were mice droppings around and in the microwave an old baby bottle in which milk was turning into a new life form. I guess I didn’t know what to expect, and for sure I did not expect luxury. But my stay in the flat only lasted for a few hours as a pipe in the adjacent kindergarten had burst and flooded the place, which meant there wouldn’t have been any running water for one or more weeks.

After one night with not much sleep, I strolled over to the ‘living’ museum just outside town, an early mining settlement called Gwalia, now a heritage ghost town. After making acquaintance with the Shire and its staff I was offered to stay with one of their employees who had a spare room.

To get me familiar with the youths and their activities, my Aboriginal hosts took me straight to run a workshop in a youth club. Being out in the sticks, the material for the planned tie dye workshop hadn’t turned up. So with 8 kids hanging around I went to the local shop and purchased vinegar, red cabbage, red onion and turmeric for making our own dye. It worked a treat and the kids ended up tasting cabbage and later using its colour to dye their t-shirts. Working with the children allowed me to make acquaintance with some their parents. And the other day a family of five took me out for a ride to see some of the closed goldmines and some creeks. I learned a lot from their knowledge of their surroundings such as how to find gold and differentiate between fool’s gold, real gold, silver and platinum. One of the old open pits has had a lot of ground water seeping up through it and the kids told me they go swimming there.

Over the next few weeks I hope to do a few more workshops and get to know the whole community, and hopefully get to ‘go bush’, as they call it. I want to make myself aware of my Aboriginal host family’s traditions, the Ngalia language and their embodied relation to the surrounding landscape. We have discussed developing a cultural exchange to enhance awareness of the peripheral and its relation to mining, production, technology and at the same time try and keep the sacred secret and nurture respect for the landscape and first nation people. I know I have a lot to learn.

Yesterday I went to the outback races where dressed up ladies and gambling took place amongst the red dirt. Today my house host is doing a barbeque with some of the locals. I am cooking pumpkin. Tomorrow I will order a bunch of pumpkins for a carving workshop with the youth group. And after that I will start my own research, I am planning to collect sounds from different minerals and stones using special audio equipment that can pick up frequencies from geological materials