The Unwritten Country by Simon Normand opened at the Colour Factory Gallery in early December. Simon has been documenting, through photography and painting, the stories and landscape of the Indigenous people of the Roper River region, South-East Arnhem Land for 15 years. This exhibition is a survey of sacred places with unwritten stories that are still known by the Mangarrayi, Alawa, Wagilak and Marra people. It is a timely and topical exhibition for several reasons. Much of this knowledge is in imminent danger of being lost due to a proposed Iron Ore mine in the Limmen National Park which will ship 4 million tonnes of ore to China each year for the next 40 years. According to the Western Desert Resources website there are “no cultural or heritage values” that will impact on the establishment of the mine. To read more please see Simon’s artist’s notes.
It is a timely exhibition for the Colour Factory as it coincides with the beginning of our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). It seemed a wonderful coincidence that we should secure the services of local Aboriginal Senior Elder, Doreen Garvey Wandin of the Wurundjeri people to execute a Welcome to Country correlating at the time of Simon’s exhibition. A smoking ceremony was performed for us by Doreen’s son Wade, and as Doreen explained the importance of the ceremony in words truly inspirational and enlightening, I think we all felt privileged to be involved in and witness this powerful ritual. The RAP is a commitment to a series of projects involving the Aboriginal community that we will be developing in near the future. It marks the beginning of the education of Colour Factory staff to acknowledge and better understand the traditional owners of our country. We have learnt on our short journey that the most important part of the RAP is the action, and we will have a number of things to achieve with the local community before we can officially launch our RAP which we hope to do early in the New Year. We encourage readers of this newsletter to take some time out to look at www.shareourpride.org.au and become more familiar with facts about the Aboriginal community.