Women paint a way

Pilbara News - - News - Court­ney Fowler

■ Three years ago a group of women at Ngur­rawaana Abo­rig­i­nal Com­mu­nity started paint­ing with the dream of mak­ing their com­mu­nity self-sus­tain­able into the fu­ture.

Ngur­rawaana was set up as a dry com­mu­nity in the 1980s, so res­i­dents could live and work on coun­try.

Home to about 25 peo­ple, the com­mu­nity is sit­u­ated 100km south east of Kar­ratha in the heart of Yind­jibarndi coun­try bor­der­ing Mill­stream-Chich­ester Na­tional Park.

It might not lot look like much, with only 12 houses, a school with no teacher and a small li­brary with only a mod­est sup­ply of books.

But the peo­ple who make Ngur­rawaana their home have some am­bi­tious plans to trans­form their com­mu­nity.

Since build­ing the com­mu­nity’s art cen­tre in 2012, a group of Yind­jibarndi women have worked with Kar­ratha artist Carrie McDow­ell to es­tab­lish a range of art work fea­tur­ing unique ochre de­signs on can­vas.

Ms McDow­ell said she hoped the art­work they pro­duced would be­come an­other way of strength­en­ing the com­mu­nity’s financial in­de­pen­dence.

“They’ve got all the skills but I help fa­cil­i­tate get­ting their art sold and out into the big world … it can be a bit iso­lat­ing out here,” she said.

“I try to give them an edge to be a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent be­cause the mar­ket is flooded with some in­cred­i­bly ta­lented artists in Roe­bourne.

“I get them to use their artis­tic tal­ent to make things like beads out of lo­cal seeds and book cov­ers which have sold re­ally well.

“The ochre paint­ing is also some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent be­cause they are the only artists in the Pil­bara paint­ing with it.”

Ngur­rawaana artist Je­nie King said ochre had been used for gen­er­a­tions by the Yind­jibarndi peo­ple in cer­e­mony.

“I grew up here and re­mem­ber see­ing my grand­fa­ther use it be­fore when he was mak­ing spears and shields, so I thought I’d try use it in my paint­ing,” she said.

“We col­lect rocks from Mill­stream, crush the rocks and mix it with PVA glue to make the ochre paint.

“It’s re­lax­ing to paint the coun­try… I feel lucky to be out here where there’s no noise, no al­co­hol and no drugs.

“We get to have a good rest from the town and eat bush food more of­ten.”

Com­mu­nity artist Lisa Allen said her strong con­nec­tion with coun­try in­spired her to paint “Go­ing Hunt­ing”, which won Best Art­work by Pil­bara Artist at the 2015 Cos­sack Art Awards.

“I told Carrie I was paint­ing Go­ing Hunt­ing and then it won that art award... I couldn’t be­lieve it.” she said.

“I have lived here my whole life, I am very con­nected to my coun­try.

“I paint lots of things, birds, goan­nas, tur­tles, but­ter­flies, the coun­try… they all in­spire me.”

Ms McDow­ell said the com­mu­nity artists had come a long way in the past three years and had ex­pe­ri­enced much suc­cess in the lo­cal art scene.

“It was al­ways a dream of one of the elders here, Rose­mary Wood­ley, to have a fully func­tion-

Pic­tures: Court­ney Fowler

Lisa Allen show­ing off a rock from Mill­stream used to make ochre.

Ngur­rawaana Com­mu­nity is home to 25 Yind­jibarndi peo­ple.

Ngur­rawaana Com­mu­nity School now stands empty.

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