29 October to 26 November 2016
Conversations: Dr Seán Kerins, Saturday 29 October at 3pm
Special Guests: artists Nancy McDinny and Stewart Hoosan with Jason De Santolo, Saturday 19 November at 3 pm
Jack Green, One-eye on the money, 2016, acrylic on linen.
First time outsiders tried to push us off our country they did it with guns and poison. This time they doing it again, and they still using poison.
Our fish, creeks and waters are slowly being poisoned by mining companies. Some creeks in the Gulf country, mile after mile, got water like battery acid. There’s no life, nothing but poison. In other places fish and livestock been testing positive with lead. We losing our food, our way of life. Our river been diverted when the mining company dug a huge open-cut pit on our sacred site. They made huge waste rock pile too. And that’s full of toxic waste that’s gonna slowly leak acid into our waterways.
On top of this we got the fracking mob turn up and start drilling to suck all the gas out of our country. They got us real worried. They going to use so much of our water and damage our country, just like the rest of them miners.
Government and mining companies, they all in this together. They just like the one-eyed fella. He got one eye on the money while he covers the other one. He knows he’s damaging our country, but he covers his eye so he don’t see the destruction. He don’t have to worry about it, as long government and mining company getting their money. He just don’t care. They all poison our life, just like the first time.
This painting’s about what’s happening to us and our country right now. It’s not just us blackfellas that are real worried, but white fellas too. We all gotta be lined-up together, black and white, to protect our country. It’s what gives us life.
The exhibition Social Licence brings the realism of dispossession to life: the power imbalance between mining companies and Aboriginal peoples on whose country the minerals and natural gas are extracted while they remain in poverty. The social contract has failed this patient town. Visibly, the ‘social licence’ promised by those who imposed unwanted mining has taken the community nowhere.
Traditional owners (Minggirringi) and managers (Junggayi) manage and maintain the lands traveled by ancestral beings creating and singing the kujka (song-lines) and the environment. Garawa and Yanyuwa narrative artists Jacky Green, Stewart Hoosan, Nancy McDinny and photographer Miriam Charlie collaborate to show what happens when the voices and authority of traditional owners and managers are not heard. They know their colonial and post-colonial history well. They remember the massacre sites where about 600 people died. They remember when the killings started in the 1870s with the pastoral development of the Northern Territory. They remind us that Aboriginal people fought back against the violence, sexual abuse, and dispossession.
Borroloola residents have been betrayed by McArthur River Mine and federal and state government. The controversial mining period began in 2006 with the expansion of McArthur River Mine (owned by Glencore / Swiss giant Xtrata) from an underground to an open cut operation. This involved diverting 5.5 Km of the McArthur River, a major tropical river, causing ecological catastrophe and deep wounds from the damage to significant sacred sites.
Another new horror has emerged: the industrial grid of natural gas extraction and the emblematic death flare that marks the extraction sites. Many of the Territory’s iconic natural and cultural areas are not protected from shale gas fracking activities. Left unprotected are important recreational fishing and groundwater recharge zones for the Mataranka Hot Springs and most of the Roper and McArthur River Catchments, areas already approved for shale gas exploration fracking. These works bring the experience of powerlessness and frustration powerfully to life.
Jack Green is renowned for documenting the dispossession by Australia’s ’thumbs-up, everything is good to go’ world of government agreement and the hard corruption of money. Often, his careful narrative paintings centre on an Aboriginal man with ceremonial boomerangs representing the Junggayi (‘Boss’) for the country, powerless to stop his sacred sites being destroyed.
Jack Green says: ‘I want to show people what is happening to our country and to Aboriginal people. No one is listening to us. What we want. How we want to live. What we want in the future for our children. It’s for these reasons that I started to paint. I want government to listen to Aboriginal people. I want people in the cities to know what’s happening to us and our country.’
Miriam Charlie photographs and interviews her community and their patched ’temporary housing’ installed after a cyclone in the 1980s. She contrasts the signs of ‘home’ such as potted plants and calendars, with the precariousness of the tarpaulin and tin shelters that they adorn.
In accompanying interviews Miriam Charlie records Jack Green discussing the waiting game he has played with government officials. Penelope Sing tells of the white ants that fill the walls of her house in the wet season. Kathy Jupiter says: “I find it a good little house, you know? Easy to clean, easy to keep things packed.” Miriam asks: “What about the things you don’t have, like water, a toilet?” “Well, the one thing we’re missing is electricity … and for the toilet you gotta walk, it’s four hundred metres away … we all share.”
The Dreamtime is something that Jack Green, Stewart Hoosan, Nancy McDinny and Miriam Charlie won’t give settlers. ‘Dreamtime paintings, we don’t do them’ says McDinny, ‘because the old people didn’t let us. We can only tell history story.’ Their art is deployed as Sean Kerins says: ‘like a weapon, to wound settler society by making the ongoing miseries of dispossession recognisable’. (Seán Kerins, 'Challenging Conspiracies of Silence with Art: Waralungku Arts, Borroloola, Northern Territory', Art Monthly Australia, 266, 2013/14.)
Miriam Charlie, My Country No Home: Jack Green and Josie Davey and family, Two Dollar Creek outstation 2015. C-type print, 60 x 100 cm.
Miriam Charlie, My Country No Home: Dinah Norman, Yanyuwa Camp 2015. C-type print. 60 x 100 cm.
Jack Green, Fracking whitehellas, 2016. Acrylic on linen, 44 x 72 cm.
Whitefellas always been coming into our country and trying to take it from us, or push us off. Today, they come with their fracking trucks looking to drill down into our land. They pump all kinds of chemicals into the earth and make huge cracks, opening up the earth beneath. When you have an earth-crack things can go bad, maybe worse when all the country already cracked up. All my family we tied into the lines (Dreaming tracks) through the country right where they want to frack. They will damage our Country and damage our Dreaming tracks. Fracking whitefellas!
Jack Green, Killin’ him poor bugger, 2016. Acrylic on linen, 56 x 56 cm.
In our Law us Aboriginal people we don’t just own the top of the land like the white-man says, we own all the way down to the places where the ancestral beings rest. All things tie up under the ground. The whiteman he doesn’t understand this yet. The old snake (Rainbow Serpent) is there under the ground. He’s there with all his power coiled up. When the gas companies drill down past our rivers and streams they not only put our water at risk but they wounding the old snake. They will wake him up as they take suck his spirit away in pipes. The big bright flare at the top of the pipe that’s not really gas, that’s the old snakes spirit they stealing as they killin’ him, poor bugger.
Jack Green, Kingplates—Sell-out, 2016. Acrylic on linen, 54 x 74 cm.
This painting is about McArthur River Mine in the Gulf of Carpentaria, where they diverted the river to get to the lead, zinc and silver under the river. There’s a huge open-cut pit been dug right where the old snake rests. The tree marks the place where the snake stood up before when went back down underground and the tree grew there. That’s all that is protected. The old snake brought the turtle down with him. He’s still resting nearby. The three men in a line are part of our families, they all sold out to the mine for money. They all wear kingplates, just like the whitefellas did in the past when they picked us off one-by-one. They’ve been dug up too, their cultural roots have been cut and just like a tree they will wither and die.
Jack Green, Wound the Serpent; Wound Us, 2016. Acrylic on linen, 54 x 74 cm.
This painting is about the old snake (Rainbow Serpent) underneath the earth. When the Gas mob drill down into the earth they drill into his back and suck the gas out and then pump it away in a pipeline. The gas is part of his spirit and they are taking his spirit away. You gotta be careful with that old snake. He’s powerful, you wake him up and he’ll cause trouble, big cyclones, strong wind and that kind of thing. Us Aboriginal people, we hurt inside when they drilling him. Me, and all my kids, we all connected with that snake, his spirit is in inside all of us. They are damaging the country. That’s where our spirit comes from.
Stewart Hoosan, Calvert Hills Country, 2016. Acrylic on linen, 53 x 53 cm.
Stewart Hoosan, Industrial Landscape, 2016. Acrylic on linen, 82 cm x 117 cm.
Nancy McDinny, Industrial Landscape, 2016. Acrylic on linen, 82 cm x 117 cm.
Nancy McDinny, Gas prospectors, 2016. Acrylic on linen, 53 cm x 53 cm.
Nancy McDinny, Right Way: Three Rivers, 2016. Acrylic on linen, 82 cm x 117 cm.
Left to right: Jacky Green, Stewart Hoosan and Nancy McDinny at Macarthur River. Photo by Miriam Charlie
'When we leave, our children can see it later, the true story of them old people. When they were powerful old people, didn’t know how to speak English but used to talk in language, saying,
"We not going to give away our land. This is our land. It belong here. This is our history, our story and our dreaming".' Nancy McDinny, 2013.
Nancy McDinny was born on Fetrel Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria between Managoora Station and Vanderlin Island. She is Garawa and Yanyuwa. Her Aboriginal name is Yukuwal and her skin name is Nangalama. Nancy’s art career spans almost two decades; she is also a linguist and educator. She paints about the rich traditional life that she, her parents and grandparents lived, which included hunting, harvesting bush tucker and travelling. Her artwork also recounts her family’s direct experiences of European settlement in the Gulf region and her family’s brutal experiences of European settlement, and the ongoing issues confronting the community today with mines impacting on the natural environment and people’s way of life. She is represented in major collections including the National Museum and Australian National University.
Stewart Hoosan is a Garawa man on his mother's side and a Junggayi (ceremonial manager), born in 1951. He paints the big country belonging to the Garawa people. His respect for his country, law and culture are the foundations for his art and make his work compelling. He grew up on Calvert Hills station where his grandfather Yarriyarri walked him through country and told him the stories associated with the land. At the age of nine, he went to work in stock camps eventually working throughout the Top End and Queensland. When he started painting in early 2000, he drew on these cross-cultural influences to paint the history of his country. His work is represented in the collections of Art Gallery of New South Wales, Kerry Stokes, Artbank, Levi-Kaplan Collection, Seattle USA and he has exhibited extensively throughout Australia and in London.
Jack Green is a Garawa man, born in 1953 at Soudan Station in the Northern Territory. He was educated on country before working as a stockman. Later Jack worked for the Northern Land Council and is now a director of the Carpenteria Land Council. He founded the Garawa rangers and Waanya/Garawa Rangers in 2005 and continues this work today. Jack has spent over 30 years fighting for the protection of his country and its sacred sites. He began to paint in 2008 to get his voice heard, to show others what is happening to his country and people. He has collaborated with academic Seán Kerins on a series of important articles about caring for country, notably in People on Country, Vital Landscapes, Indigenous Futures (edited by Jon Altman and Seán Kerins, Federation Press). Jack Green is represented in the collection of the Australian National University.
Miriam Charlie is a Garawa, Yanyuwa woman from Borroloola who for over a decade was Gallery Coordinator officer at Waralungku Art Centre (2005 to 2016). She is a current ANKAA director (and past director during the periods 2007–2008 and 2010–2012) with extensive experience within the arts industry and cultural leadership; she has been a representative on the Indigenous Education Council of the NT since 2013 and vice chairperson of the Li-Kurlulurwa Language Centre since 2009. As an artist she has been selected for national photography prizes through Alcaston Gallery and Desart. Recently the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Melbourne featured her work in CCP Declares: On the Social Contract curated by Pippa Milne. Miriam Charlie's work was exhibited as part of the Tarnanthi Festival, Adelaide, 2015 and We are in Wonder LAND at UNSW, Sydney 2015. She has been a finalist in several photography competitions: Desart Indigenous Photography Competition, 2013; and Point, Click, Capture, Upload, Alcaston Gallery, 2013. Her work is represented in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria.
Jason De Santolo (Garrwa/Barunggam): Speaker with Nancy and Stewart, is a researcher at Jumbunna Research UTS who been exploring collaborative research/media practices for communicating sustainable autonomy and self determination with a focus on video and new media.
Chloe Gibbon, Coordinator Waralungku Arts; Mabunji Aboriginal Resource Indigenous Corporation, Borroloola; Dr Seán Kerins; Jacqueline Gribbin; curator Pippa Milne for permission to share her exhibition catalogue CCP Declares: On the Social Contract and Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne.
Nancy McDinny, We Paint We Belong https://vimeo.com/103477439
Stewart Hoosan, Elders Protecting Country https://vimeo.com/168735886
Action: Our Land Is Our Life https://vimeo.com/166492977
Miriam Charlie,‘My Country No Home’: https://vimeo.com/158590440
Miriam Charlie, ‘Gulf to Gallery' - http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-26/indigenous-photographer-miriam-charlie-opens-borroloola-exhibit/7444802
Pippa Milne, CCP Declares: On the Social Contract, exhibition catalogue, (with Miriam Charlie) Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, 2016 > Download as pdf
Mining and Natural Gas Extraction in the Borroloola region
Glencore mining (McArthur River Mine):
3 September 3, 2015, Cairns Post: 'Borroloola residents betrayed by Glencore': report by Neda Vanovac, AAP http://www.cairnspost.com.au/news/breaking-news/locals-petition-for-glencore-mine-closure/news-story/ccc75fa6f86762c72232a6be14c5d26a
14 February 2016, ABC Radio National: 'Glencore's acid test' by Jane Bardon, Background Briefing. The McArthur River mine in the NT is one of the biggest open cut zinc mines in the world. Ten years down the track it's been discovered there's an enormous toxic waste problem, with no current solution. Reporter Jane Bardon investigates the scramble by mining giant Glencore and authorities to work out how to manage a pile of toxic waste the size of 250 Melbourne Cricket Grounds. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/glencores-acid-test/7162422
21 August 2016, ABC News Radio: 'McArthur River Mine expansion approval process should halt for inquiry': report by Jane Bardon http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-21/mcarthur-river-mine-expansion-full-inquiry-needed-report/7769210
14 September 2016, ABC News Radio: 'Fracking moratorium takes effect in NT, Chief Minister Michael Gunner says’: report by Avani Dias
'A moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, begins today, with Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner announcing the move at an oil and gas summit in Darwin. He said, "The moratorium includes exploration - you cannot hydraulically frack unconventional gas reserves for exploration - but general exploration activities are all fine" '. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-14/nt-government-introduces-fracking-moratorium/7843502
28 October 2016, ABC News: ‘McArthur River Mine to defend secrecy of bond alone as NT Government steps back’ by Sara Everingham. In what is believed to be the first proceeding of its kind, the NT Environmental Defenders Office and Borroloola resident Jack Green have appealed against the Northern Territory Government's decision to withhold the bond figure from documents released through Freedom of Information. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-28/mcarthur-river-mine-to-defend-secrecy-of-bond-alone/7974000
Natural Gas mining and fracking:
The NT Government’s own mapping shows 85% of the NT is under exploration licence or application for exploration licence for oil and gas. Permits to drill now cover more than 90% of the region (see map attached). This online interactive map allows users to see areas in the Territory already approved for oil and gas exploration. The light orange areas are under application by oil and gas companies that want the rights to frack, while darker orange shading means approval has already been given.
Residents and Traditional Owners from the Gulf region have been a leading voice in the campaign for protection of land, water and communities from fracking. They have been taking part in protests, speaking at local and national events, taking part in the Territory Frack-Free Alliance to help coordinate the campaign from regional and remote areas and even producing artwork highlighting the risks of fracking to country and culture. Both the Nawimbi and Garawa Land Trusts have voted unanimously to veto shale gas exploration on their land trusts covering the townships of Borroloola and Robinson River.
For general information about the risks of shale gas fracking: www.dontfracktheterritory.org
Borroloola mob's Call to Action 2 min clip and Protecting Country from Fracking, a 20 min film, can be accessed here.
Facebook page Don't Frack the Territory has local content on the campaign featuring Gulf region mob.
Flow of Voices is a unique exhibition series on contemporary art, settler colonialism and mining and social justice in the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory of Australia. Garawa and Yanyuwa artists, Jack Green, Stewart Hoosan and Nancy McDinny, compare the brutality of the colonial frontier with ongoing settler colonialism and large-scale developments such as mining. Without proper respect for people and country, racial hierarchies and imperialist attitudes persist.
Flow of Voices 1 - http://crossart.com.au/archive/256-jacky-green-flow-of-voices