AUSTRALIAN FIELDNOTES: No man’s land

Our first Australian workshop is happening in the camp in Fowlers Bay, on a remote beach of South Australia. We work together with Aboriginal female artists who come from four communities: Yalata, Tjuntjuntjara, Oak Valley and Tjutjuna (the city of Ceduna). We observe and document their work, life stories and artistic process and learn from them. The Finnish  and Australian artists and craft-makers from our group are also sharing their materials and techniques. Each member of our team has their own research and artistic objectives. We are working towards academic and popular publications and the two big exhibitions coming up next year.

Getting to know people and winning each other’s trust takes time and mutual effort. Our first meeting with the local ladies had a touch of tension in it and resulted in some collateral damage. Our principal video documentalist Nuno was kindly asked to stay away from all the main activities on the account of him being a man. Turns out, Anangu women take ’women business’ very seriously. This culture strictly separates the activities based on gender. Doing traditional crafts and sharing stories are the activities men are not welcome to join. This was quite a setback for our team spirit and data collection process, not to mention our European mindsets pumped by ubiquitous idea of gender equality.

Despite the first bumps on the road, we were later invited to join the weaving circles in a place in nature that was significant to the local women. Singing, dancing and storytelling by the fire followed. Nuno respectfully stayed away and had to be updated on the events later on. 🙂

By Daria Akimenko

photo credits: daria akimenko

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