part 1: week 4

I was advised to go back to the very beginning and to look at the records from the 1st surveyors of the land, such as Dutch, French, English and Chinese accounts. We discussed the layers of veneer that have been placed to create an illusory and possibly incorrect version of the new refugees that landed on the shores of Australia. Their plight was also a means of escape - whether it be from class, crime or poverty- a dream of a new life. The veneer are the stories that were written of the people they encountered - what did the surveyors say - and what was possibly not heard so that British government could make claim, how the history was written to suit the needs of the colonialist government.

I enter a round space filled with small green palm heads. A woman with blue eyes sits on the right, Rebecca Casey is her name, and she is kind enough to suggest a new contact in the Busselton area. Plus she comes with a good tip about the bush - these small palms.

Brett, his daughter Lilly, and Ron sit in a small semicircle in the sun. The conversation focuses on the questions I have had and which have yet to be answered. Finally some Nyungars are willing to help me with concrete answers, and yes, my understanding so far is not far off—for the most part. It is a relief to finally have this conversation in which the intimacy and exchange is finally there. I am so thankful to Soula to having introduced me to Brett Nannup and his mother the day before, and to Brett for extending his hand in friendship and allowing me access to his friends and family. The day before the time keeps getting extended, in a kind of a way that would have in Jamaica - you feel the atmosphere is right and good - you keep going and you do this because you feel the interest and need.

Brett, and Laurel Nannup, his mother and artist are seated. Coffee and cake wait. Brett gives an in-depth overview of his mother’s art, which is connected to personal narratives. Brett has dedicated his life to creating that wholeness which links him and his family to each other, it is really wonderful to experience, be inspired and to see this kind of love. At one point, there is a kind of funny experience; we go out into the yard, where he shows me this stone that he has been working on and carving into small spearheads. This stone seems very familiar, as I had just photographed this stone in the collection at the museum in Northcliffe. So I mention that I know this stone, and he turns around and looks a bit shocked at me. Reason being is this stone is pretty precious, and he has gotten a hold of it through another friend who has had access to it.  I keep feeling that it is somehow these small connections that are beginning to make sense in my journey.

So much has happened in this last week. A possibility to visualize a potential thread in the project is finally coming about. I have been looking towards nature as a possible method for healing - it seems obvious that this is needed, and it is only returning to it - that somehow the freedom presents itself as a tool for the spirit.

If the spirit of death and sadness remains from all these murders, what veneer is laid on the truth? So much can be borne by people, without one beginning to distance oneself from this oppression and the oppressor. I have no answers it is just guessing, and there are so many questions that are connected to one’s own displacement - and if your story is different from those around you, can you fit in? Will you be accepted? It seems the splitting of so many families has really created an enormous task in repairing the deep wounds that must be present. If it isn’t from the abusive existence, and trauma, then it is from the disconnection that is placed between you, the family, ancestral lore and tradition. After all if each Songline was to be carried on by specific families, and if I make the comparison to a Vodun family where each household was responsible for each deity - what happens when the family is split and the Songline has not been kept properly as the ancestral wishes demands? And what happens to the Songline that is then connected to a larger proportion with other families throughout Western Australia who have are also connected to one another? This is the question that Ron Bradfield brings up for me to understand and think about in rethinking this history.  

Moreover what happens to the spirit of the dead who have not found peace? If we consider the fact that tradition demands that the dead transcend through the caves in some form of burial ritual and are to be freed to a beyond. This realization comes about through another meeting I have with an elder, Wayne Webb, who has written extensively on this issue of the caves in Western Australia. So the question remains how and when will tourism balance their condition, since they are profiting by that lies within the caves? And what happens to the tradition according to which Nyungaar bodies still remain to be buried in the caves? I remember a case of an American Indian corpse that was held by an American somewhere, and where the community wanted the body returned so that they make the appropriate burial ceremony within the caves, the solution seems so relevant to the situation here. 

part 1: WEEK 1

I spent last weekend, in the hospitality of my host Diane McGirr and her partner, Dave. She lives on her farm with horses and sheep. At dinner we seemed to delve into many topics; race, the history of this country, the prison system, the similarities of British colonialism in island countries etc. My question before I came here was how come a young country with a decisive history of immigration created a situation such as the asylum seekers camps in Manus Island. But then again, the United States of America did the exact same thing in the early nineteen forties after the Japanese bombings of Pearl Harbor.  Many Japanese refugees were sent to Perry Island before they could enter the United States.

Diana and Dave, wanted me to see the effects of bush fires on the environment, and we delved into quite a few stories about different areas that had been seriously affected. Aboriginals in various communities in Australia have used controlled burning as a method to stimulate new growth in the forest, but as noted by Kimberley Berley, an environmentalist and conservation expert, who is head of the Western Australian Environmental agency and fire control in Western Australia, this method is good for certain plants but does not necessarily benefit other plants and animal species. He showed me a map, which displayed the effects of population growth on the natural environment in Western Australia. The middle of the state was still good but the beach and coastal environments had become vulnerable to natural forces.

I am living right by the beach, which is a threatened environment. What you notice most about the man made landscape around where I live, is the attempt we humans make to dominate nature. Visually it’s a Floridian landscape, where cars dominate the priority and functionality of what’s made. Pedestrians can just watch them whizzing by because they will stop for nobody. The tarmac seems to dominate as much greenery as possible as it attempts to grapple its counterpart.

As Kim reminded me, he is presented with the constant struggles of fighting to preserve nearly extinct species such as yellow and white underbelly frogs, possums and different plants and birds inhabiting this geological hotspot. If it isn’t clearing for housing, there are mining initiatives, deforestation and many other challenges present, such as underground water being re-diverted to be used for Perth’s water supply, a diversion that creates problems for species dependent on this water.



(T-shirts to be made) 

’Good Evening’ she is bubbling all over and wanting to talk. My mouth still hurts from the fall, blisters packing upper and bottom lip. ‘Good evening’ I say. She begins to talk about the other woman who she had been talking to, and then she catches herself. I tell her that I think she is friendly and she catches herself’ and says’ Am I too loud.’  I tell her ’No you are just being yourself’. She smiles and relaxes caught in the moment and she realizes I see her and its ok. And she wishes me a good evening, and in that small interchange I feel as if I have made someone happy and I have a friend. She is so real in her awkwardness. The next day, I meet another woman in the supermarket who makes a big deal to tell me how nervous she is because she has been away from work for a week. I tell her that all will be good and that she should not worry and that things will work out fine. So with all the security of perfection and bourgeois/ middle class living – there is the murmur of insecurity and imperfection—all good in my eyes.