AUSTRALIAN FIELDNOTES: Day 1 MAJESTIC SEA CREATURE

The indication “Day 1” in the headline of this blog is merely a desperate attempt to keep track of time. These days we hardly know what date and day of the week it is. The endless trip from one edge of the world to another and the eventful, full of exploration and surprises, days have been keeping our group tired, but excited.

The very first impressions were somewhat surreal, perhaps, due to our jet lag. Some of us could not help but noticing how much rural South Australia reminds them of South Africa and Namibia. The first night spent at an emu farm outside of Ceduna introduced us to quite a large and friendly praying mantis and other alien-like visitors. It also ended with one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. (Sometimes it really pays off to be jet lagged and wide-awake at 5 am.)

We spent most of the next day preparing for camping out with Aboriginal artists in Fowlers Bay. As a part of this preparation, we visited Arts Ceduna, the local gallery that exhibits Aboriginal art, organises a vast range of community activities and has a language department where hard work on revival and preservation of Aboriginal languages is being done. The activists of the language department talk to the elders of Aboriginal communities, putting together bits and pieces of their native culture, namely, three local languages: Gugada, Mirning and Wirangu. There are only three women working there, they are starting to teach the languages privately and popularising them through well-designed hand-outs. They look forward to being able to take a step further and to bring the languages to the local schools.

Aboriginal contemporary art presented in the gallery was a revelation too. We were honoured to meet some of the artists whose works are exhibited and sold there. It is a special moment to talk to an artist, as they get to tell you the story behind the artwork. And it seems that with Aboriginal art there is always a story deeply rooted in the common and personal past and legends.

A truly surprising encounter happened to us on the back of the gallery where we were introduced to a giant blue crab, a collaborative sculpture of the art workers of the gallery made of the pieces of fishing nets and other debris found on the ocean shores. This is a recurring practice for the artists. Their previous debris sea creature had a gallery tour around Europe.

By Daria Akimenko

photo credits: daria akimenko

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