A U S T R A L I A
and what it means to me
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Australia has been the promised land for me since the beginning of my adult life. There's more money, opportunities, sun and sand there.
In a drunken haze, I booked flights with my friend to Yallingup, Western Australian when I was twenty. What was the allure? Someone told us it was cool and it was a great place to make money.
We worked in a pub at night and lived in a campground working for free rent for an old, angry alcoholic.
Yallingup was an intensely rugged, wild and beautiful place. The ocean was so strong and scary. I had never experience such natural raw power. (I’m not an ocean girl). I met some incredible people in Yallingup that shaped my life forever but the underlying feeling for me was danger. I could never put my finger on it but the area felt scary, dangerous. Like a screaming silence. I never knew why and I never looked into it. After living there for a few months I went to visit some friends on Rottnest Island, a beautiful tropical paradise they were working at. The same feeling. Undeniably beautiful but something felt off for me. I remember my friend and I standing in front of the ’school’ and feeling very spooked. I found out later that it was an aboriginal prison in the mid 1800’s but strangely enough there was no information on the island explaining that.
A year later after another brief and awful stint in art school, I moved to Bryon Bay on a one hundred dollar one way ticket to chase a friend. I loved Byron from the start. Farmers Markets, sunshine, all day at the beach, work all night at the ‘Treehouse Bar’ with a collection of interesting people from all over the world, surf (small, gentle and perfect for me), and beautiful wild life and a lush completely different landscape than what I was used to. I spent over an entire happy year there making friends and money to fund my year long trip through Asia. After coming home from India full of parasites (just two), I was a bit lost. I moved back to Byron, back to be with my friends, and the waterfalls and vegetables. It was different this time around. But I think I was different. I spent a lot of time swimming in the Ti Tree Lakes with my girlfriends giggling, surfing and doing yoga. Us girls had the most fun at the Ti Tree lakes. I found out recently that the Ti Tree Lakes were used as Aboriginal Birthing pools and considered sacred by the Aboriginal women. I didn’t know that at the time. There are no signs there explaining the history or that it was preferred by the Elders for it to be ‘Women’s only’. The only signs were warning of perverts who like hide in the bushes (I wish I was making this up). After hiking up Mt. Warning (the highest mountain in the area) for sunrise for the second or third time I saw a small sign on my way down. It said that the Aboriginal Elders didn’t want people going up to the top. That it was sacred mens grounds. The sign was so small you could barely notice it.
I started noticing more and more my lack of Aboriginal knowledge. How there was none readily available. How when I think of Australia I almost don’t think about Aboriginals at all because of my lack of experience with them.
I moved up to Koonyum National Park with my boyfriend at the time, we would drive almost an hour to work and back everyday. The landscape was thick rainforest and red earth. It was hot and humid. The wild life was a New Zealander’s worst nightmare. Snakes in the compost, constantly checking for ticks. I remember driving to work at five one morning and it had been raining all night. I saw all these crabs running across the road. Where did these big crabs come from? They weren’t crabs. They were giant spiders. Bigger than my hand! I worked very hard, had no life and saved up for a year long trip through South America. The various indigenous people I met through South America were so beautiful and vibrant. I was in absolute awe of their confidence in who they were, their traditions and their sense of identity. It made me realize how important traditions, crafts and hobbies were. It put me back in love with painting. It also made me question my lack of knowledge of the Indigenous people of Australia. A place I had spent a majority of my adult life.
This series I am working on about ’The First Australian’s’ is an effort to recognize where Australia came from, and to pay respects to the people who walked before me. It has also been a great opportunity for me to learn about the Aboriginal people, to learn about their traditions, agriculture, crafts and culture. I hope my paintings will be seen in a sign of respect for the First Australian’s and you will be able to feel the story of these people through the paint. I hope when someone sees one of these painting they take a second look and question the person in the paint. Where did they come from. What have they been through. I think sometimes we need to understand the past before we can move forward.
Australia will always be the promised land for me. I can’t wait to go back and see and feel more.