Images and annotations exploring the nature and culture of Australia's tropical deep north
Satirical images but in a deeply serious vein, the exhibition Get well soon: a diagnosis opened at Gallery 26 in Darwin last night. Artists Therese Ritchie and Chips Mackinolty presented 14 images of famous and infamous white Australians connected to dialysis machines. It’s an unlikely scenario, as 98 percent of Territorians on dialysis are indigenous Australians. To quote one of the notorious figures depicted “it’s confronting…it’s confronting”. The take home message from the show is that if this was happening to well off white folk like it’s happening to black folk, something serious would be done by state, territory and Federal Governments to address the issue meaningfully.”
I will try to attach a dropbox link in my first attempt to hook a dropbox pdf file to Tumblr. If it doesn’t take you straight to the catalogue from the show, try cut and paste into your browser…but fingers crossed it may work!
Darwin artist and social commentator Therese Ritchie celebrated a recent camping trip to Arnhem Land by our Prime Minister Tony Abbott with creation of this wonderfully cliched spear and foot-on-knee pose graphic. Prime Minister Abbott, aka Crusader Abbott, went out to stay in an army tent in NE Arnhem Land for a few days before he had to rush off to deal with his ISIS crisis. Since assuming Prime Ministership Tony Abbott has laid waste to many important indigenous programs and has brought Indigenous affairs under the exclusive management of Prime Minister and Cabinet — a kind of “great white father” thing one might say.
Little Prick is a faux magazine, named after potty-mouth remarks by a Northern Territory politician. For some years now Therese and her mates have been producing colorful and caustic comment as Little Prick front covers.
Which serves as a reminder that Therese and her long-time fellow traveller Chips Mackinolty open their Get Well Soon exhibition at Gallery 26 in Darwin tomorrow night.
I’ll post pictures from Get Well Soon, once they are out from under wraps. Needless to say, they’re quirky and on target, politically.
White Fellas Work Like White Ants, Jacky Green 2014, Waralungku Arts
I call this painting ‘White fellas work like white ants’ because it tells the story of how white fellas force their development projects on us and our country.
On the left of the painting is the white fella bulldozer pushing over what he thinks is just a tree. But it’s not. It’s a sacred site tied in with the songlines that run through our country. Above the bulldozer is a white ant. White ants destroy things.
On the right of the painting I show how white ants attack and kill healthy trees. The white ants find the weak spot, like a decaying root, they get in there and slowly start eating the tree from the inside out until they kill it.
This is what white fellas do to us, Indigenous people, when they want to get us to agree to one of their development projects. They find the weak ones in our cultural groups. They look after them. They use them to sell their plans, and to tell us there will be jobs and goods things for the development project.
This way of working always causes conflict amongst our people. It starts to eat away at our cultural groups and communities from the inside out, just like white ants do.
When they pick us Aboriginal people off and separate the weak ones from our cultural groups they killing them and our culture. I symbolise this in my painting by the body hung by the neck in the tree. The person is separated and isolated from the cultural group and might as well be dead.
White fellas they just work like white ants.
— picture and story from Jacky Green.
People of the Deep North: Jacky Green is a Garawa-speaking artist, activist and cultural warrior from Borroloola in Australia’s Northern Territory. He was born in 1953 in a creek bed on Soudan station in the Northern Territory where is father was working at the time. School was the bridle and the blanket, learning on the pastoral stations. He was taught traditional Law by his grandfathers, father, uncles and other senior kin. His early life was spent working as a stockman on pastoral stations in the Gulf Country.
His extensive knowledge of the Gulf Country and its peoples was developed through ceremony, song, hunting, fishing and gathering, and travelling through Country with the old people. For the past thirty years he has worked tirelessly with the Indigenous peoples of the Gulf; fighting first, to get country back in Aboriginal ownership, and then to protect and care for it.
In 2005, he, along with other Garawa and Waanyi people, started the Garawa and Waanyi/Garawa Ranger groups to care for over 20,000 square kilometres of ancestral land, and to create meaningful work in a remote and challenging region with few employment opportunities.
He says he started painting to get his voice out.
“I want to show people what is happening to our country and to Aboriginal people. No one is listening to us. What we want. How we want to live. What we want in the future for our children. It’s for these reasons that I started to paint. I want government to listen to Aboriginal people. I want people in the cities to know what’s happening to us and our country. I want the government and mining companies to know that we are still here. We aren’t going anywhere. We aren’t dead yet. We are still here, feeling the country.”
He works through Waralungku Arts in Borroloola and has exhibited at two solo shows in Melbourne (2013) and Sydney (2014) as well as a combined show in Sydney (2014) with Yanyuwa and Garawa artists Nancy McDinny and Stewart Hoosan. His artworks are held in numerous and private and public collections.
(Thanks to Jacky and Sean Kerins for this bio).
Therese Ritchie print from upcoming Get well soon! Exhibition.
Check out her extraordinary works of art, activism and social comment over the years on her website.
Back in 1983 I introduced Darwin photographer Therese Ritchie to the then-manager of Katherine’s Mimi Arts and Crafts, Chips Mackinolty, to do a shoot of the women weavers at Numbulwar on the Gulf of Carpentaria. My matchmaking with the two artists succeeded! They have worked together on and off ever since in a series of art projects and exhibitions. Indeed the three of us were partners in crime with a graphic arts/research company called Green Ant RAP in the 1990s.
Get well soon! A diagnosis, is their sixth outing together (they’ve been in dozens of group shows), and opens at Gallery 26 in Winnellie, an industrial suburb of Darwin, on 2 October 2014. Gallery 26 is the brainchild of photo journalist Dave Hancock.
It’s a show that takes a pretty hard look at the health situation of Aboriginal people in remote Australia, with a focus on End Stage Kidney Disease. But rather than focusing on Aboriginal people as victims—which is the most common meme—Therese and Chips turn the idea around … with something of a different diagnosis.
There are 14 powerful digital prints in the show: it will be interesting to see what the response is to them.
The images for Get well soon! are under wraps at the moment, but one related to health from Therese from a few years features in the next blog posting.
As Therese and Chips put it:
“Whether we like to admit it or not, artists often deal in clichés—sometimes to praise or reflect them; at other times to bury them. To the small extent that Australian artists (along with journalists, commentators and politicians) have dealt with Aboriginal health issues at all, we often find ourselves buried in the visual and written clichés of victimhood, suffering and despair. In our practice over many years, we have perhaps erred on the other side in trying to avoid the archetypes of victimhood—not least in looking at health.
“And as graphic artists, we have tried to look towards solutions, from immunisation to management of asthma, and from the role of Aboriginal Health Workers to community control of primary health care and beyond.”
There’s a great catalogue attached to the show which will be on sale, and a low res version of the catalogue on the Web from the time it opens.
When European artists first arrived in Australia they struggled to draw the local fauna and flora. Their landscape art had an “englishness” about it and kangaroos and other Australian fauna had an unnatural resemblance to foxes, stoats and the like.
Not surprisingly, Aboriginal artists faced the same problem when they first encountered European beasts.
These paintings from a site in Djok clan country, Western Arnhem Land make the point quite visually.
The artists were well used to drawing kangaroos. The horses they drew were influenced by a mental macropod template for large mammals — big back legs, small front legs and looking like they are bounding rather than running.
We believe these pictures may have been painted in about 1865 when Captain Frances Cadell put a mob of horses ashore on the Liverpool River and went exploring on horseback.
The paintings are part of the Fragile First Impressions Exhibition of photographs of contact rock art from Western Arnhem Land at the International Council of Museums Conference here in Melbourne this week. The photographs were taken by Top End photojournalist David Hancock.
The show is open only to delegates to the conference but we hope to show it later in Canberra, Darwin and maybe Sydney.
Will keep you posted.