Understanding and living respectfully within Indigenous places
Fredericks, Bronwyn L. (2008) Understanding and living respectfully within Indigenous places. Indigenous Places : World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium Journal, 4(2008), pp. 43-49.
To many Aboriginal Australians, Country means place of origin in spiritual, cultural and literal terms. It refers to a specific clan or a tribal group or nation of Aboriginal people and encompasses all the knowledge, cultural norms, values, stories and resources within that particular area - that particular Indigenous place. The notion of Country is central to Australian Aboriginal identity, history, and contributes to overall health and wellbeing. Women and men both have a central role within Country, in terms of ownership, care and rights. With an increasing shift of Aboriginal people to urban areas or living in the Country of other Aboriginal people it does not mean that one’s connections to Country are lost, or that the significance of Country is no longer present. It does mean that many Aboriginal Australians now pass through, dwell, and live within the Country belonging to other Aboriginal Australians. While we as Indigenous people might live within the Country of another Indigenous nation, they are still, Indigenous places. A map available from the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (Horton, 1999) pictorially depicts over 500 Indigenous nations in Australia.
Dr Pamela Croft names her Country as that of the Kooma clan of the Uralarai people, South West Queensland. She lives in Keppel Sands on the Capricorn Coast in Central Queensland within the Countries of the Darumbal people (mainland and coastline) and the Woppaburra people (Keppel Islands), who are intricately linked through history and relationship (Horton, 1999). This area is known as the Central Queensland region in numerous State of Queensland documents. As a geographical area, it comprises tablelands, flatlands, plain lands, open scrub, wetlands, river and creek systems, coastal areas, islands, mountains and now cityscapes and urban sprawl. Within broader Australia, this region is marketed and written about as the ‘Beef Capital of Australia’ (Forbes, 2001: 1). Sometimes uses the slogan where ‘the beef meets the reef’ (Great Barrier Reef) in advertising materials so that people know that it is close to one of the world’s greatest wonders; the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef. Pamela Croft has practised as a visual artist since the mid-1980s and uses both Aboriginal Australian and Western techniques, education and style to tell the stories based on identity, sense of place, and the effects of colonisation. She was the first Aboriginal Australian to gain a Doctor of Visual Arts (Croft, 2003).
In her artworks, Dr Croft focuses on concepts of place and space and change within Country. A recent series of artworks were undertaken on the muddy banks of the upper regions of Pumpkin Creek at Keppel Sands. Pamela knows the way the moon and the sun impact on the tidal flows and how the time of year affects the temperature of the water. She has traced the tracks of animals and other people who at times dwell within the area. She has watched, observed, hunted and gathered in ways of Aboriginal women, past, present and future.
In the Creek, Pamela left special paper to capture the gentle nomadic nature of the tides which result in delicate patterns left on the mud that change with each ebb and flow of the water. The crabs imprinted their presence as they foraged for food, so too did the Ibis and seagulls. This evidence of water and animals became stories, recorded in the mud like texts that have been imprinted within the artwork. Croft later used the paper as canvases for her art works and added local ochres – black, brown and red to symbolise the water’s connection to land, people, place, and a sense of past, present and future. The colours and lines flow within the artwork just like the contours of the Creek. They are tied within the artwork to a sense of Country that binds water, land, animals and us as human beings. Over time, the changes in Country became mapped in Croft’s ‘Mud Map’ series and other artworks. Croft’s Mud Map series has been exhibited in Atlanta and Houston, the United States of America.
This is an interview with Dr Pamela Croft undertaken in her studio at Keppel Sands. The inteview was specifically focused on her research and arts practice within Country and how she incorporates a sense of Indigenous place within her artworks.
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