Mike Clark, who is one of the assistants at ArtGeo, the Busselton’s Art Center that hosts my residency, will assist me in my filming and photographic projects. Mike suggested that I visit one of the old settlements and milk farms by the Tuart forest. It has a history. There was an advertisement placed in the British newspapers asking people to come and join in creating this dairy village. Many people came but the logistics were much more difficult than people anticipated, as the land needed to be cleared and nothing was in place, so some left and others stayed and made a go of it. This settlement is not far away from one of the first settler-homes…. Layman’s home called Wonnerup.
In the past month, all the previous residents have vacated the community and so it is the aftermath of this departure that I am observing.
One cannot escape the fact that every time you encounter nature there is some warning sign that has been put up there to make you aware of the danger present. So don’t imagine any casual strolls through it
DANGER 1080 POISON BAITS laid in this area. NO TRAPPING OR SHOOTING. Secure livestock and Domestic animals.
DANGER mining operations no unauthorized entry KEEP OUT
WARNING. Underground telephone cables in this vicinity BEFORE DIGGING OBTAIN CABLE LOCATION DETAILS BY RINGING.
OVERNIGHT CAMPING and sleeping in a vehicle is prohibited and restricted in public area in the City of BUSSELTON
WARNING watch for REVERSING VEHICLE
DISEASE RISK AREA
I don’t have an animal, or a gun, not planning to dig a hole—no just want to take a walk and photograph. This too presents a problem as I must look on the ground and wear noisy clothes so that I do not step on a snake out there… and I don’t understand what does it mean exactly that this is a disease risk area? Lord, I am too much a FOREIGNER—here, .not understanding the codes exactly. So the danger factor is high out there! And it’s more than likely that if you have located a beautiful natural landscape you want to get to….sorry, there is also a fence to prevent your intrusion. The government seems to be unconcerned with the fact that pedestrians have limited access these hotspots. Maybe if there was more of an attempt to integrate humans with their environment through natural paths and walking areas without too much concrete, signs would not be necessary and nature lovers would explore more. I spoke to a hobby photographer in the supermarket who told me of his encounters with fences and how he hops over them, we also talked about the notions attached to neighbours’ rules and the morality of private property, of what is owned, and what is free. It is possibly the same kind of hidden history that is entangled with the question of morality versus ethics inherent in contrast between the morality the herders, settlers, and fences versus the open ended, nomadic existence? “Morality” or “settler-morality” is an aspect or code that seems to be a central question. These warnings seem to date way back to the early settlers. There is a sign that was issued for the department of native welfare—this was meant for Nyungar people living in Busselton.
The courtroom in Busselton stands as a bastion/stark reminder of law and order. I had a great interview this week, which clarified that this was a small and petty charge court. Normally, for more serious crimes people were sent to Albany or Perth if this was needed. However, while looking at some documents at the Wonnerup estate, there was a distinct difference in the kind of fines that were given to settlers and Aborigines. Charles Bussell, one of the first Busselton’s settlers (hence the town’s name), was only fined a shilling and discharged for the manslaughter of Cummangoort, an aboriginal child, whereas three months imprisonment wad given to two Nyungar men, Bomke and Bale, for stealing flour.
I started reading ‘The Protectors - A Journey Through the Whitefella Past’ by Stephen Gray. It is totally and utterly devastating, and as a black person you don’t feel comfortable after reading his description of the past, which is so very recent, and stepping out into the streets of Busselton. At the same time, people are extremely friendly, so the dichotomy is kind of schizophrenic. If you look at the landscape and travel a bit, I cannot but agree there has been an unparalleled near extinction of Aboriginal people in the Western Australian areas I have seen. The absence is so distinct you cannot be in any way be uncertain of it. I have been and travelled to many post-colonial societies in Western and Eastern Africa and the Caribbean, and I have never seen so many white colonizers (British/white Australians) dominate the environment. The travel down to Northcliffe through Nannup reiterated this point, and to me it is shocking— the place could be a small town in Britain- there is absolutely no difference- and I am guessing that I will see a more varied migrant population in Britain than I am finding here. As a Jamaican it is just mind blowing—and bizarre to be absolutely honest…
My Aunt reminds me that of course this is literally the same as it was in USA, and the population of Native Americans who were also killed. And in Jamaica the Arawak Indians also died when they came into contact with the Spanish in 1600’s. I guess this has always been the contingency for overtaking another country or continent. And Black people, Indians, were a part of a commercial forced migration. Destroy or be destroyed must have been the motto for war and land ownership. This reality is depressing to say the least. I guess what I am reacting to is the rawness of the spoils, and what this reality looks like.
I was prepared that the settler was the prime mover here, and the focus would be on the recent occupancy of British settlers. Northcliffe museum is in the middle of town across from a gas station, it is reminiscent of some a film scene - a mix of American grocery store and something else—but definitely with a feel of the outback. An elderly lady with her adorable dog stood attending the entrance of the museum. She was very friendly, and informative. A man who I later found out was the carpenter stood talking to them about how they could change the look of the displays in the museum. As I entered I was struck by the notion that museums that preserve history tend to have the same look about them. In one room, there stood an old schoolroom, with Australian flag and children's desks. In another room there were basins, the washroom. Finally I stumbled in a room full of geological rocks and the collection of Mr. George Garner, a wonderful display of all the stones he had dug up over the entirety of Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. My reaction to the display was immediate… this was something that could really work visually in the project I had been cogitating/reflecting about it over the last couple of days.
Set up a possible photo shoot at the museum using the collection of geological rocks that had come out of Western Australia. This could be amazing. I realize that there is a real need for healing in this landscape- as there is a real disconnect with the past, and yet there are people who have been working hard to extract and focus on the geological beauty of this world/place. Could this be the way to commence healing—or to make the connection? Could I possible appropriate and reuse this collection as a way to extend or to find a route to an atonement/apology—the sorry to the Aboriginal people came in 2008, but it can still be discussed/argued whether this apology was wholehearted or halfhearted. I am still wrestling with the fact that I know that Aboriginal people of different groups, live in other parts of Australia, however it is here where all is lush and green, that there has been an eradication of their presence. It is a small trickle.
Could this collection be recreated into something cosmic, and could a connection be drawn to the underground caves of the western region that are breathtaking. Could slow drips of water and salt mold this landscape- and could it be a possible method to address the pain hidden and present in this atmosphere. After all the earth governs us all even though we would like to make ourselves believe that humans are in control, and yet we are interconnected bodies that are constantly linked and dependent on one another. Maybe there should be a sign for every Nyungar person that was killed, and this should be placed in the sign landscape of Busselton so the memory does not slip by and get replaced so quickly.