Kununurra to Halls Creek | Kimberley Trip Part One

Kununurra to Halls Creek | Kimberley Trip Part One

Doone McAlary

Jess Anderson, Regional Arts Development Manager and I head to the far-north of Western Australia on Sunday 12 June for nine days of community visits, organisation catch-ups, and funding forums throughout the Kimberley, which incidentally is approximately the same size as Victoria. As with all our forays to the regions, we’re floored with the breadth and depth of people’s fervour and energy when it comes to arts and culture and their community. It’s not easy, and it’s beyond impressive the achievements and successes we see and hear during our time up north.

Kelly’s Knob Kununurra just prior to sunset. Photo by Doone McAlary

We land in Kununurra on a blinding bright and hot afternoon having left the early winter briskness of Perth. Monday morning first up we speak with Jo Roach, Festival Coordinator for the Kimberley Writers Festival, which showcases all things written and spoken. Then we meet with Carolyn Gasmier, President of  Kununurra Picture Gardens where she shares her vision, and I’m particularly interested, having been involved with a community volunteer run cinema when I worked with Arts Margaret River.

Late morning we hold a funding forum at Waringarri Aboriginal Arts, outlining funding programs and hearing of local projects and ideas. Manager, Cathy Cummins and Chair, Ben Ward generously make the Centre available. A small group is in attendance, with representatives from local health, visual arts and Waringarri.

Elders and well-respected artists Alan and Peggy Griffiths are at the centre. Peggy is instructing a number of young people, all working collaboratively on a canvas; Alan, who was a recipient of 2015 Western Australian State Living Treasures Awards, keeps a watchful eye over the proceedings. Phyllis Ningamara sits calmly painting her beautiful circles representing smooth river stones. There is a continual flow of people.

Prior to the forum Cathy shows us the fabulous outcomes of a recent project funded by Country Arts WA Project Fund, workshops in textiles and silver jewellery. The fabrics are simply stunning, and the jewellery impressively unique.

Water ceremony Waringarri Aboriginal Arts. Image. Chris Griffiths, Ted Carlton and Doone McAlary. Photo by Jessica Anderson

Water ceremony Waringarri Aboriginal Arts. From left to right Chris Griffiths, Ted Carlton and Doone McAlary. Photo by Jessica Anderson

For the second part of the day it’s back into town to speak with Wendy Casey, Coordinator of the Barramundi Dreaming Festival showcasing local Indigenous culture across all art-forms.  We also catch up with Alison Vos, Ord Valley Country Women’s Association, who in the past has accessed Country Arts WA’s Share the Risk funding for their annual Family Bush Dance.

A group gathers at the Visitors Center mid-afternoon to be collected for the Waringarri Aboriginal Arts cultural tour conducted by Chris Griffiths and Ted Carlton. As part of the itinerary we visit a number of sites within the township where artwork from local Aboriginal artists is featured, amongst them the Kununurra Courthouse and large-form boab casted sculptures in the Coolibah Residential Estate. The tour culminates at Kelly’s Knob where as the sun sets we are treated to damper and kangaroo, with a background of song and didgeridoo.

An early start the next day, and I’m excited to be seeing those magical Kimberley tones for the first time stretching away to either side of the Great Northern Highway. We’re headed to Halls Creek, with a stop-over at Warmun Art Centre. Unfortunately Warmun is in the midst of sorry business, so we’re unable to meet with Cherie McNeill, the new Manager. We do however spend a wonderful hour or so in the gallery.

Onto Halls Creek along those incredibly long straight narrow single carriage roads. So very different from the duel lane freeway heading south of Perth!  Over a cuppa we speak with Matthew Hobson from Shire of Halls Creek; then onto the relatively new Yarliyil Art Centre where Tim Pearn, the interim Manager shows us the gallery,  fabulous studio space both indoors and out and spacious storage areas.

To read more check out Fitzroy Crossing to Yiramalay | Kimberley Trip Part Two.

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