Return of the bush

TWENTY-FIVE years after the groundbreaking Bush Women: Fresh Art From Remote WA, a follow-up exhibition will introduce Aboriginal art to a new generation of city dwellers.

The original exhibition was curated by John Kean, but this time he’s been joined by Erin Coates in Bush Women 25 Years On.

“1993 was an amazing moment for the incredible paintings made by Aboriginal women,” Coates says.

“People in the city needed to see that presented.”

Punters not only saw the art, but got to meet the six artists,

“A mob came down and were in the Fremantle Art Centre garden talking about their art.”

• An artwork by Pantijiti Mary McLean, one of the artists in Bush Women 25 Years On.

The colourful lives of the artists in the exhibition would make the basis of a good movie, and their art tells the story of their land, lives and of Aboriginal dispossession.

Queenie McKenzie (Gara Gara) was almost one of the stolen generation, but her mother convinced police to let her remain with her family.

Her mob were tossed off ancestral lands when new owners bought Texas Downs Station in the Eastern Kimberley. McKenzie went on to spearhead a life-long campaign to regain access to her land, including fronting up to state parliament.

Born in 1912, Pantjiti Mary McLean grew up on the Northern Territory/WA border.

In her late teens she was so frightened by the sight of her uncle returning home riding a camel, she ran away from the area.

Daisy Andrews grew up with her father on Cherrabun Station, 280kms from Halls Creek.

• Yilimibirri Junba Dancers.

Daisy’s father tried several times to return to the family’s desert home country, only to be marched back to the station in chains by police.

When Daisy was old enough to work at the station, she was paid in blankets, tea, flour, sugar and tobacco.

Paji Honeychild Yankkarr also worked at Cherrabun, where one of her jobs was cutting the lawn with scissors.

Tjapartji Kanytjuri Bates and Tjingapa Davies grew up travelling the desert country east and north of Warburton with their families.

Age, ill health and death means the artists won’t be in Fremantle for the exhibition, but Daisy’s extended family and the Yilimbirri Junba Dancers will be there.

Bush Women, 25 Years On is at the Fremantle Arts Centre until September 8.

by JENNY D’ANGER

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