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Community portraits to light up the boabs of Derby

Posted by Craig Walsh

The project here in Derby commenced with a meeting at the Mowanjum Aboriginal art and culture Centre. Here we discussed the projects I have undertaken recently in regional communities. Specifically our conversation focused around the protocols of projecting content in this country and how we might work together to achieve a work which reflects this diverse community. I was taken by the exhibition currently on show in the Mowanjum art and culture center, ‘MY FACE OUR PLACE’. The project consists of  255 stunning photographic portraits of Derby residents, an initiative of Mowanjum Art Centre's Archive and Media Project Coordinator Katie Breckon who worked closely with the community to create these images.

Lena Buckle talks to Craig Walsh for the digital portraits community project, to be screened 8, 9 and 10 October 2014Lena Buckle talks to Craig Walsh for the digital portraits community project, to be screened 8, 9 and 10 October 2014

Katie and I discussed and agreed that a selection of portraits from this collection could be utilised in the FIVE Derby project and enabled the works to extend into a different form of engagement with Derby through projecting these individuals in and on the trees around Derby. An opportunity to extend the ‘MY FACE OUR PLACE’ project whilst this collaboration enables the work I create here in Derby to reflect the broader community.

A key component of the new work will be working with Lena Buckle, a traditional  elder in Derby and Nygenna,Walmajarri, Mungulla and Nyhul country. Lena holds great knowledge in regards to culture and history in this region and contributes greatly to this community. I have had the privilege of spending much time with Lena informally and interviewing her on camera. Her contribution to the project provides a role model for this community and an opportunity to share her knowledge, history and wisdom with the broader public.

The projections of Lena and her comments will occupy a series of Boab trees and the content amongst other things will reference history, culture and survival in relation to this iconic tree of the Kimberley. The Boab is a survivor and has adapted to the harsh conditions whilst providing multiple uses for the inhabitants of this region. Given Lena’s history and her ongoing commitment to strengthening this community, it is fitting that she should occupy this strong example of resilience.

The project utilises trees, a common element of the environment, to connect individuals from this community with each other and the site. They definine the importance of knowledge and connection to place as a tool of resilience and a fundamental human need.

The final artwork will consist of a four to six minute video artwork which incorporates documentation of the portraits projected throughout the town. It will be screened on the 8, 9 and 10 October as part of MarshArt. Locations will announced in the coming days.

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