The Pormpuraaw Artists and Cultural Centre took six artists, Elliot Koonutta, Sid Bruce Short Joe, Patricia Coleman, Rhiannon Edward, Christine Holroyd and Marlene Holroyd to Canberra in October 2013. Paul Jakubowski the art centre manager and trainer Theo Tremblay played tour guide. People were afraid of the cold but quickly saw the benefits to all that free air conditioning. We spent six full days visiting important cultural sites such as tent city, parliament house and the war memorial. School children from all over the country were visiting our nations capital at the same time. I was glad our mob was having the same opportunity.
I believe it is important for artists to get out and travel and experience new things. An artist needs to see and collect ideas and techniques. We went to every art museum, art school and art studio available to us. To visit an artist’s studio can be especially important. It shows how artists work; how they think and put “it” all together to complete a finished work. We went to the mint, commercial galleries and the National museum. Here we were able to see artifacts from our area made by descendants. Tina Baum the head curator of the National Art Museum Indigenous Section brought us into the back achieves and pulled out large canvases for us to view. It was a great privilege. We thank her, Theo Tremblay and many others who went out of their way to share their resources and time with us.
I think visiting the Canberra School of Art was a real eye opener for many of our artists. The school is filled with individual workspaces and studios. One artist might be working with shaped plywood. Another might be making bronzes. A different artist was working with tissue paper dipped in wax. All the painters had different styles and mediums. It demonstrated that anything goes with art. Artists need to experiment to find what works for them to make it uniquely their own.
One of the most important cultural sites we visited was “Tent City” which has been manned since 1972. This is where aboriginal brought attention to land right issues. They planted their flag bringing national attention to their plight. Our people understand the cultural significance of this place for all Australians. It was important to go there.
Going walkabout has always been an important part of aboriginal life style and culture. In the old days walkabout was for gathering food and knowing country. Our trip to Canberra was not to collect tucker but to collect ideas and experiences. It was a way of experiencing art and its application; to “connect” and share experiences.
Arts Queensland sponsored our trip and Skytrans gave discounted airfare assistance; thank you for your support.