The Rocks is the host of two photography exhibitions as part of Sydney’s biggest celebration of photography, the annual Head on Photo Festival. The exhibitions, Discovering Country – NSW Pathways and Saltwater Country are unique representations celebrating the stories, Aboriginal culture and natural environments of New South Wales and the Dampier Peninsula in Western Australia.
Originally apart of the the 2010 Guringai festival, Saltwater Country is a collaborative project between photographer Sally Mayman and artist Dale Kentwell that celebrates the beauty and richness of the land and it’s people. Artist Dale Kentwell believes, “the narratives in these works are about the lines and concerns of the people I sketched in their land and then painted in their landscape.”
It was great to see the cultural theme bounce off each other from the realistic photographs, to the surreal colourful paintings of childlike wonderment of portraits in natural landscape settings. A nice juxtaposition of faded real life and colour dream-like paintings.
Inscribed on one of portraits, “People don’t know how good it is to live on your own land. It’s the best thing for me. I’ll have it no other way.” This idea really made me consider how rarely many of us in our modern city dwellings, take the time to exist within nature and really appreciate the beauty and sustenance it provides to people and creatures.
“Handouts?… By the time we get any assistance from the government, 60% goes to administration and gets whittled down through the heirachy…We don’t get much really. They can provide services without taking our land (Mullibor)”
“I spent a lot of time teaching the children…telling them what is right and what is wrong. They mustn’t forget their culture as it is important…We have to get along in both societies…(Geibuk)” It is wonderful to see people using the land, the same way it was being used for thousands of years.
One of the photographs featured, of a father and son says, “I hope there are still dugong and turtle for my son to hunt.” Simply touching – not only is the father referring to the loss in culture as communities are encouraged to integrate in ‘white’ society, he is also referencing the dwindling numbers of wildlife due to modern society’s over fishing, causing many species to the brink of extinction.
The sepia colour of the images really enhance a sense of a moment caught in time – and makes you think about if these cultural communities and practices still be around in the future? The answer seems to point to sadly, possibly no, which is quite devastating considering the beauty, the appreciation that these communities consider to be all they have ever known and love.
The poignant images really touches you on a human level – they have a voice and show you this community are made up of real people. The precious relationships portrayed in the images, are the same that you may have with your mother, father, uncle, siblings or grandmother.
As you navigate around the space, the odd and even pattern set up for the exhibition creates a visual intrigue, and entices you to keep exploring. in the room.
Also, there are seemingly random paintings leaning against walls – now either this is a serious lack of nails or intentional, I guess I’ll never know. But I would like to try to see it as method to represent the displacement of the identity, culture and lives of those involved in the tragic separation of families and cultures.
As I quickly passed by this alleyway in the Rocks, I had to take a few steps back and take a photograph for you. The lighting on this tree at the time of day was perfection – I wish I had my SLR to better illustrate, but it was such a peaceful hideaway in all the city hustle and bustle. Which leads into the Discovering Country exhibition I visited here…
Images from here and here
Date: Wednesday 25 May – Sunday 12 June 2011
Times: 11am – 7pm
Location: 47 George Street (cnr George and Atherden streets)
****Don’t forget to enter my competition to win a pair of earrings. ****
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