Journal

Glen Farmer Illortaminni

Glen Farmer Illortaminni, an arts worker from Jilamara Arts on Milikapiti, Melville Island, shares his wild tale of being the first Indigenous fella to get lost in Paris. 

What brought you to Paris in the first place?

It was my Uncle, Timothy Cook. He had an exhibition in Paris and my committee at Jilamara Arts appointed me as his interpreter. We flew to Paris together.

How did you feel when you first found out about going to Paris?

Oh I was excited because I hadn’t been overseas before, this was my first exhibition overseas.

So tell us about your first night in Paris, is that when you went missing?

At around about 10 or 11 at night I got up. I was a bit hungry so I went for a walk just to look for some kebab. I was going to find the nearest pub so I could grab a few drinks and walk home to the hotel. I went too far out and I didn’t know my way around. I got lost and had to walk all night then, for four days.

Did you have anything with you? Your Phone?

I left my phone in the hotel, my key, my wallet. I only had about a hundred bucks on me. I couldn’t remember the name of the hotel so I walked, walked, walked. Took me four days. I walked around all over Paris, day and night.

Were you worried at all?

No no, I didn’t worry about anything because I was just enjoying myself. I met a lot of different people, the first people I met were Moroccans, they welcomed me for a place.

How did you come to meeting them?

On the street I spent a few nights with some homeless people around Paris. I found a family that were in a park so I just sat down with them on the bench. I went to get a few beers. They didn’t have any so I sat down and had a chat with them.

Did they speak English?

Not many people in Paris speak English, just a few. I tried to speak to the police but they didn’t understand me. I tried to explain myself but they were just speaking their own language. 

I had to sleep at the airport one night and then walked this way and slept this way.  I walked and walked. 

It was cold so I had to find myself somewhere warm. It was also raining so I walked toward this blocked road, where there (were instead of was) army and police, there was someone trying to do a plot there. They had to move me and tell me to go back, they grabbed me and they said ‘come on sir you’ve got to move back there’ There were dogs there. I tried to explain myself but they just moved me with all the other people. 

One Australian from Melbourne said to me, ‘sit down mate, there’s a bad person there’, but he didn’t cross my mind at all, didn’t cross my mind at all.

I didn’t tell him anything. I had to walk back to the airport and I stayed there one night.  At the airport and I saw this French guy speak full English, he was a Frenchman who worked at the airport and he gave me a map. I said “excuse me sir, do you know anything about the Australian embassy?” He said, “you’re a long way from here to the embassy.” He gave me a map and drew me directions.  I had no money at all. I'd run out of money, I just followed people in the train through the tunnel. I just looked at the signs and saw I’m here and I’m here and tick, tick, tick.. That’s where I was going at night time, and I was hungry and I was cold.

Did you have anyway of getting food? Was it only the Moroccan family that you found to eat with or did anyone else help you out along the way?

Yes, some people gave me notes, some people gave me money and notes. They knew I was missing, they saw me on the news, in the French news.

One time I was sitting there near this shop and a little girl found me and her father and mother w in the shop. They gave me some of the long rolls with ham and cheese and they gave me coffee. It was really good, I just met them outside the shop and they fed me.

One French lady she gave me a box of chocolates and I couldn’t stop eating, I ate the whole box.

So What happened? Did someone tell the police?

I was reported missing and when I got to the embassy they already knew about me. They said "you are a fugitive". I said, “Yeah I am” and I was laughing because they already knew my story and I think it was hilarious. First Indigenous fella who got lost in Paris

So would you go back to Paris one day?

Yes, I did. I would again. Apparently the gallery owner who organised the exhibition wants to write a book about me.

When I got back to Australia and went back to work on Monday morning, a French lady rang me, Amy. She said, “I’d like to talk to you about your experience” so I did a little talk back. I walked around the Art Centre and the co-ordinator, he took photo of me, put me on Instagram and said, “This is what I do for a living and I’d like to thank you, thank the embassy and thank the people at the airport for giving me directions and I had to thank everybody who lives in France.”

Do you think it’s a funny story in hindsight?

Yeah, people can get a good laugh about it. My family were really upset. I had to talk to Guy at Munupi Arts Centre at the embassy. They put me on Skype to him.

What’s your role at the Arts Centre? What kind of things do you do day to day?

I’m a cultural liaison officer and vice chair for Jilamara Arts. Every morning I’ve got to set up all the canvases for everyone, for all the artists, stretch them out and put them in the frame. 

I was in Darwin for 6 months and I haven’t been working. This is my second week at the Art Centre and the managers and everyone is happy that I’ve come back to work.

I’m training one young girl at the moment, she’s been at Tiwi college. She said to me, “One day I’ll be doing your job” and I said, “Good, I’d love to see that.” I’ve been there for 23 years now and my long leave service is coming up, I’ll probably go on holidays of something.

Where would you love to go on holidays?

I don’t know, probably Bali, just to relax, have some beer, some food, suck up some Balinese culture

 

 Artwork by : GLEN FARMER ILLORTAMINNI Terminator TjipomurJilamara Artsrayl, Etching, 41x30cm,Tiwi Eiffel Tower, available from Jilmara Arts 

 

Glen Farmer Illortaminni Aboriginal Artist_North1

GLEN FARMER ILLORTAMINNI, photo by North 

 

Artwork by : GLEN FARMER ILLORTAMINNI Terminator TjipomurJilamara Artsrayl, Etching, 41x30cm,Tiwi Eiffel Tower, available from Jilmara Arts 

 

 Interview by Crystal Thomas 

Colin Puruntatameri

Out of the blue Colin Puruntatameri, a Munupi artist from the Tiwi Islands, got given a plane ticket to Melbourne. Here he talks about the move from Garden Point (Pularumpi) on Melville Island to Melbourne and his new role at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Colin Puruntatameri Aboriginal Artist_North Home Interview

You’ve just moved down to Melbourne from the Tiwi Islands, what inspired you to make the big move?

It was meant to be just a visit to start with. I was coming down for holiday.

I got a call from my cousin saying she had an open ticket that she’d bought for my younger cousin and he didn’t want to go. I asked her to call me back in 10 minutes so I could think about it but I ended up calling her back straight away and took the ticket.

From there I went straight back home, chucked all my clothes in the washing then took them down to my cousin’s to throw them in the drier. The next day I woke up about 7am and packed my bag and jumped on the bus to go to the other community. It was my 21st birthday recently so I had some birthday money from my Dad. I made my way to the ferry and got in to Darwin about 6pm. I had dinner with my cousin and was on the flight by midnight.

Wow! So 24 hours later you were on your way to Melbourne, that’s wild! How are you finding being down here?

I find it really good, very friendly. You can go to anywhere in Melbourne and meet new people. There’s always something happening. Being on community there’s hardly anything on, maybe disco or hunting on the weekend. Here you can jump on the tram and head to the City or St Kilda and there’s always something exciting on.

Before moving down you were working as an artist at Munupi Art Centre, how did you come to making art there?

It was around the time I lost my Mum. I had a month off work and then an Aunty suggested I come and work at Munupi Art. I just started off when they gave me a canvas, and I was sitting there asking myself, “What should I do? Should I get someone to do a design for me or try to paint something from within?” I thought i’d just give it ago and try something new, I really loved it.

Most of my days there were spent outside with Cornelia. She would paint on the floor and I would paint up on the bench. Each morning I’d say good morning and she’d say hello and we would sit and paint together. It was really nice to have someone sit and comfort me as I was going through loss. Even though she doesn’t speak that much, just having her paint there and just being in her presence everyday helped me deal with the loss.

Can you tell us a little about the work you were making there?

My artwork is mainly desert style, dot painting. I’ve adapted my Granddad’s brother’s painting style in my work. I feature the emu as that’s our totem down in the desert. 

I’ve heard about how stories travel from each tribe or language group. One time I heard a story where someone up at Lajamanu had the same emu story as we had from the Yuendumu area. Some people from an island in Arnhem Land had the same story too. So in one of my paintings I painted emu eggs, each one having a different style to represent the different language groups. Each egg or language group has their own part within story and it progresses in the art like the story did.
Colin Puruntatameri Munupi Aboriginal Artist Emu Egg
Colin's Emu Story, for sale online through Munupi Art.


I understand you write poetry and music as well.

I picked up music around Year 8, I was singing hallelujah in line and one of my teachers came up to me and told me she’d heard me singing. She said she was going to get me into a choir and get me some music tuition. That’s where it all began.

Sort of same thing with the writing. At one point when I was feeling really sad she gave me a note pad and a pen and encouraged me to write down anything I felt. It started off just writing anything and then from paragraphs of just nonsense I started trying to get in to poetry.

Are there any particular artists or writers who have inspired you?

I don’t really aspire to be anyone. I just started right from the heart and try and stay true to who I am.

In my earlier writing I was talking about peace and politics. I can see similarities to Bob Dylan songs that talk about the same sort of things. Subject matter varies now. Sometimes my poetry can just be about the way I feel or the place where I am.

I remember writing a peace on my Year 12 retreat. At that point I didn’t know many people in my cohort and I felt really alone. The whole group went off and I just stayed where we were dropped off and wrote. After a while people came over and so each stanza changed with my environment and what was happening around me.

We’ve heard you’ve just picked up an internship at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). Congratulations!! What do you hope to learn from them?

That came through AFL Arts Ready. When I first moved down I was seeing them to help me find a traineeship. I was considering some of their IT options but then when I’d told them about my work with Munupi I was referred on to the NGV.

The whole week after the interview with the NGV I was so nervous, but on the Thursday afterwards I got the call! This week is my first proper week in the role I’ll be working in over the next 12 months. I’ll be doing three or four different things with them. I’ll be working with their storage systems, processing online orders and working within the NGV store.
When you think of home what comes to mind?

Even though I’ve moved away from the Tiwi Islands before, no matter how many times you go away you still always miss the scenery and the seafood.

There was this place we used to go camping called Mudlow (it’s also called Shark Bay). There was this one spot I used to go and sit. It’s on one of the cliffs looking out at this island called Wulinju. It’s beautiful country. There’s one picture that sticks in my mind when I think of Wulinju. One day it was very cloudy except for this one ray of sunshine going straight down to the island, it was almost biblical in a way.
Interview and portrait by Amy Nicholas
All other images courtesy of Munupi Arts & Crafts association.

After our interview with Colin he decided to take an incredibly brave leap and share an important part of his identity with his friends and family. He wished to share this note with you and I,

It starts of with a feeling I guess.
Then a word.
For someone from a small community this word seems foreign, taboo.
 
Over time I have tried to hide from this word, yet it has kept popping up in many stages of my life.
A lot of you know the word I am talking about.
It is not my whole existence, simply a part of who I am.
I am gay.
 
This does not mean I am different to the Colin you “knew.”
I am the same person.
I was just trapped in a world I didn’t fit in.
I decided to come out because I want to live life to the fullest and not suppress any part of who I am.
 
Now that I have come out, I feel liberated and finally at peace.
Whoever you are, I want you to know that there is help and support out there.
Be it issues with your identity, or simply that you have reached a hard point in your life, there is always support. You are not alone.
 
I wouldn’t have come to this decision if it weren’t with the support of Headspace and my friends and family.

Kieren Karritpul

Renowned artist from Merrepen Arts Centre, featured NORTH artist

 
Image via art link - Photo by Frances Grant

You come from a long line of inspirational artists, what is your earliest memory of creating art? 

When I was six, six years old. My mum, aunties and brother were all painting and I was hanging around at the art centre. 

Can you tell us about the hand screen-printing process that happens at Merrepen and what it means to have everyone involved?

They use to do it before, but then they stopped. Then we started doing it in 2011 or 2012. They first started along time ago, before I was born. It’s good to have people come together again. I enjoy both printing and painting. We usually print five runs of eight metres per day.

The fishnet is a reoccurring story within your work, we know that it is traditionally used by older women to collect fish and turtles and is hand made by women from Merrepen. What significance does painting the fishnet have to you? Why do you paint the fishnet design?

When I was young I used to go out with my mum, grandma and my great, great grandmother and other older ladies, and I used to watch them getting Merrepen and different colours and then they used to do the fishnet, and I remember when I was kid we used to go to the creek and they used it to get bait fish. Near the community there’s a billabong, but theres a little creek there and we used it to get bait fish or barramundi. That's why I paint the fish net. 

If there was one celebrity you would dream of seeing in a fishnet dress or suit, who would this lucky person be? 

Maybe the Queen or maybe Barack Obama’s wife. 

Interview By: Crystal Thomas

Yerrgi, 2014. The winner of the 'Youth Award' at the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award 2014 is Kieren Karritpul for 'Yerrgi' - Acrylic on cotton.

 

 

 

    

Kieren Karritpul Aboriginal Artist_North6

Delores Tipuamantumirri 

Renowned artist from Melville Island Delores and her grand daughter Dakota
 

Tell us a bit about your paintings, what techniques and colors do you tend to use and what are their significance to you and the Tiwi Islands?

Dolla - The painting I’m doing now is about a net, a fish net. Banapa they call it. I use red, yellow and white. I use the red and yellow first and the white over it. I use a big wooden comb.

- These colours come from ochre. The ochre is the yellow and white. The yellow and white orche gets collected from the beach and when the yellow ochre is cooked on a fire it turns to red.The wooden comb, called a powja is used to apply paint and create the aesthetic of the fishnets used for hunting in Tiwi. -

Your mother Cornelia is a respected elder and artist in Tiwi and also a featured artist of North’s - how has she influenced you and your work?

Dolla - She’s an elder from Tiwi, she has influenced me just recently. My mother and my grandfather would paint together, so I joined them. I started painting after her (Cornelia), maybe in 2012 or 2013 I’d say. 

Do you think this artistic skill and knowledge will continue to be passed on in your family and to the younger generations? 

Dolla - My grand-daughter’s Shanon and that do painting too, she’ll be 12 and she’ll be going to a MITS a in Richmond.

Dakota -That’s the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School. A group of kids come down with one of the house keepers.. They go to Richmond High and after one year when they graduate from MITS they go to a private school after

Only Des and Shannon are the artistic children in the whole family. Me and Des did this painting competition thing, where there were like heaps and heaps of kids that did this painting for a postcard and Des was the one who won. He did this turtle design with red, black and yellow with dots and lines and a turtle. Somewhere in Australia they sell those postcards with the painting on it.

- Dakota is fantastic at sports including athletics and football! -

We know that your artwork is about to be exhibited in Singapore – How exciting! Can you tell us a bit about the exhibition and the artwork that will be shown?

Dolla - There’s about 3 paintings going to Singapore. But I don’t know about Mum, I don’t know how much painting she got. Mines a pretty big one, and two middle size.

What are you going to do if you sell a big piece?

Dolla - Ill give half to my family. To the kids.

What do you love most about life on the Tiwi Islands?

Dolla - Going out in the bush. Camping. Hunting. Fishing. Hunting for mud mussel, the longbum – it’s like a snail, you find them on the mud, on the beach but the other one you got to look inside the log, see half of their shell in there in the mud.

Do you like longbum Dakota?

Dakota – Yeh, but its hard to crack. Only mud mussels. Once it cooks inside you just put it on something hard and get a rock and you just crack it open and take it out. Its green and black. Yeh, it’s really nice. OH! But have you guys ever ate a snake before? Carpet snake?!..

What do you love about the Tiwi Islands Dakota?

Dakota – But the best thing about going to Tiwi Islands is you get away from all the city and everything, you get away from the city and like heaps of technology and trams and everything, all there is just bush and cars, just a tiny bit of cars, and just heaps of sea and you go hunting and camping, you cant really go hunting here in Melbourne. You can only go hunting for like shoes and clothes.

This one time in the afternoon when we were at Tiwi Islands, this dog started barking at a tree so we all went there and we saw that it wasn’t a snake or anything, it was a baby, sugar glider, so I picked it up and took care of it for the whole time we were there, and then so when we went back to Darwin, I gave it to my cousin Duan and he’s still got her now. He’s still got her and he named her Roxy. They’re so cute, their eyes are so adorable. 

What has been a highlight since you’ve started painting?

Dolla - Last year my painting went to Paris, someone bought it and put it on Facebook, they showed me.

- One of Delores's paintings was purchased last year by a resident of Paris and hung in their home. Photos of the work hanging were posted on Facebook and shared with her and the community. This was a very proud moment for Dolla -

Interview By: Monica Segovic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bobbie Ruben 

Textile Designer & Printmaker, running workshops on community and assisting artists in creating designs for screen printed textiles

 

Bobbie Ruben Textiles Designer

Having worked within the printmaking and textile design industry for a long time, can you give us a brief outline of what you have achieved and some highlights of your career?
Since finding this work in the early 2000s I have worked with mostly remote community Indigenous artists in the development of over 250 large-format repeat textile designs along with numerous editions of fine art prints on paper.
A highlight has been my involvement in many of the growing number of exhibitions and events featuring the textiles, especially where they have been hung in vast 8M lengths on both the inside and exteriors of public buildings and art galleries. Who could forget the excitement of seeing Merrepen textiles winning Melbourne cup ‘Fashion on the field’ in 2013, or Merrepen textiles being personally gifted to Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge in 2014 and later that year entering and winning the youth section of the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award. Seeing the many instances of these beautiful and dynamic textiles incorporated in high-end furnishings has also been a great opportunity.
Another significant highlight has been my involvement in Indigenous fashion performances that have celebrated and promoted the textiles. In these exciting and much anticipated events Indigenous culture is emphasized more so than expressing a desire to enter into the fashion industry. 
This work draws on a cultural exchange in the design, production and usage of the textiles. It is affirming to see the nurturing of these exchanges and promotion of intercultural collaborative relationships integral to the future success of this movement.
Presently you are known to work closely with artists on community by assisting them in creating repeat print designs with their artwork. What does this entail?
The process begins by exploring with the artist their particular interests, the kind of imagery they usually create and what of these ideas would best translate to textile media. The artist then begins a series of sketches, which are redrawn onto a large sheet of paper corresponding with screen size. We usually work with a design area of around 1500mm x 800mm. Composition, balance, scale and working out how to repeat and join the image for textile design must all be considered. Once the drawing and design are finalized the artist then paints up this design onto separated film layers depending on how many colours will be printed. Problem solving, adjustments and reconfiguring of artwork continue in order to satisfy the constraints of the design process and reach the point where both the artist and myself are satisfied that it is going to be a beautiful and commercially successful textile design. 
Photographing and preparing artwork for offsite printing, or exposing artwork onto screens for printing on community then follows. We often use Photoshop to explore colour options to enable the best possible combinations. Digital technology plays an increasing role in developing designs however it is only used as a tool rather than an end in itself, and at all stages the mark of the artists hand and the rawness and directness of the screen printing technique are retained.
Along with assisting in design work, my role can sometimes be as an intermediary between artists living in remote settings and the requirements of urban contemporary art and design markets.
How rewarding is it for the artists to be able to translate their work into a new medium? 
As these textiles continue to gain national and international momentum and recognition, artists are able to gain a higher profile and recognition for their artwork and culture. Not only this but I see the joy and pride, determination to complete designs, and the sense of achievement in the finished work. Furthermore the artists can have a continuing relationship with their work once it has left the community, whether it is seeing their textiles worn in the street, in fashion performances, in interior design settings or in galleries and public spaces. The artists can also see the textiles in numerous print and electronic media. For artists happy to work within the design constraints and collaborative nature of textiles, the potential rewards are unlimited.
What initially drew you to where you are now and compelled the want to share your skills and knowledge in remote communities?
I love this work and feel lucky to be able to travel to incredible places and work closely with inspirational artists that I have had the pleasure of forming long term working relationships with.
 While I bring skills and knowledge to workshops, in each workshop I also gain skills and knowledge through working with artists and colleagues. We learn from each other and all build skills and professional know-how together.
 For me this work has organically gained momentum to the extent that I now wish to explore and understand the phenomenon of these incredible textiles via my research as a PhD candidate at James Cook University.
I find the work in textiles creates much excitement and draws a lot of different people to work together, from artists and designers, to arts workers and commercial enterprise. I like the fact that there is unlimited potential in this work that has as yet been barely uncovered. I also like that we will always need textiles and always need to create new and more beautiful designs.
In a dream scenario, where or in what form would you love to see the hand screen printed textiles exhibited?
My dream would be to see Australian Indigenous textiles treated as iconic Australian design and revered as Marimekko is to Finland. I would also like to see the textiles function as highly successful enterprises enabling full employment, travel and other opportunities for remote area Indigenous artists and arts workers.
What do you love most about visiting the Northern Territory?
Darwin had been my home for 22 years and I still feel I am coming home every time I return.
I love the edginess and otherness of Darwin culture and the rawness and wildness of the climate.
There is a freshness created by the revolving door of talent and enthusiasm that washes up on territory shores. Darwin as a community has a strong sense of itself and has evolved to suit its own local residents rather than as an attempt to attract visitors. The visitors come anyway because they like what we like.

 

Interview by Monica Segovic 

 

Design workshop, Susan Marawarr, Babbarra Designs 2015. Photo: B. Ruben.

 

Design workshop, Aaron McTaggart, Merrepen Arts, Naiuyu Community 2016. Photo: B. Ruben.

  

Hand-screen printing at Merrepen Arts Centre, Daly River. Photos by John Tsialos.

 

 Hand-screen printing at Merrepen Arts Centre, Daly River. Photos by John Tsialos.
 

‘NgangiWetembi Dememarrgu’, textile exhibition, Merrepen Arts, Naiuyu Community 2014. Photos by John Tsialos. 

 

‘NgangiWetembi Dememarrgu’, textile exhibition, Merrepen Arts, Naiuyu Community 2014. Photos by John Tsialos. 
 
 Maxine Charlie, Croc skin, Nagula Jarndu designs 2016.
Maminydjarma Maymuru, Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair fashion performance 2016.

 

 Babbarra Designs textiles, Maningrida 2016. Photo: B. Ruben.

Bernadette Watt & Letoria Yulidjirri 

from Anindilyakwa Arts Centre, Angurugu, Groote Eylandt

 

You’re both artists and project officers here at Anindikyakwa Arts Centre. How did you first come to making art?
Bernadette - My brothers taught me back on Mornington Island where I grew up. I would watch how they did paintings of the Wurlywin Man, Brolga Lady, rats and squid. I still paint some of those stories now. I also did art at school here on Angurugu after moving here when I was 7 years old.
Letoria - I started coming in one day a week to do activities with Bernadette. She and the other lady taught me how to do dyeing and now I’m here a lot.
The Arts Centre has recently begun focussing on dyeing with materials from community and the bush. How did this come about?
Letoria - A woman called Aly de Groot comes here sometimes to teach the ladies how to do the dyeing. My favourite colours to dye with are red and yellow.
Bernadette - We go out and collect old steel, dig out plant roots for the yellow dye and collect other leaves to make the black colour. We then come back to the Arts Centre, crunch up the leaves and wrap the fabric tightly around bits of steel. We then boil up two billies, one with the yellow dye and another for black. When they have been in the dye long enough we wash them out and hang them to dry outside community. 
We go out to Umbakumba community on the other side of the Eylandt, to Malkala (an outstation) and fly Milyakburra on Bikkerton Island to dye with other women. Sometimes we visit aged care too. The old ladies there like to do dyeing. Dyeing is good fun. It makes the women come together and chat while we dye. They really enjoy doing it.
It’s coming in to wet season now. What is wet season like on Angurugu?
Bernadette - I love wet season. The rivers run and when the sea comes in all the fish come in too. They breed in the rivers. It’s much better for fishing. You catch lots of fish and it’s much cooler out on the water. You can even spear stingray!
Letroia - I love wet season too!
If you could see anyone in the world wearing a scarf you’d created, who would it be?
Bernadette - Magnolia Maymuru, the model from Yirrkala who went to this Miss World competition. I met her at the Art Fair in Darwin last year. She was lovely.
Having lived in this remote part of the Northern Territory for most of your lives, what do you love most about living here?
Bernadette - I love living here in Angurugu. It’s a good place with friendly people you can look up to. It’s a nice place. My children grew up on Milyakburra, a community on Bikkerton Island just off the coast of Groote Eylandt. There are lots of lovely fishing spots around Groote Eylandt and Bikkerton Island. I also love working at the Arts Centre here, doing dying and screen printing. My latest design is the of the mud mussel which we collect in the mangroves.
Letoria - I grew up here. Most of my Mum’s family are here. It’s home. 

 

Interview by Amy Nicholas 
Photography by Amy Nicholas