Town camp artists commissioned by Darwin Festival

A 75 metre mural commissioned by the Darwin Festival is keeping Tangentyere Artists busy this week. The painters from Alice Springs town camps are tackling it section by section in the warehouse space on Fogarty Street that they hope will eventually become their fully-fledged studio.

The corrugated iron mural will be wrapped around the festival’s Lighthouse venue, a big top tent, in Festival Park. Larrakia artists had the commission in 2009, artists from the Tiwi Islands last year, and now Tangentyere Artists have taken the baton.

The opportunity arose after their exhibition at Darwin’s Outstation Gallery last year and will be great for further raising the profile of the art centre in the capital.

It will also tell a different story about town camp life. Painters are working in characteristic vein: Dan Jones is creating one of his truck scenes at Utopia, underlining the link that many town camp residents have to country and communities outside of Alice; Margaret Boko is painting vignettes of children playing, men hunting, people sitting together around a fire and her written texts tell us that traditional beliefs continue to loom large for her people; Alison Inkamala is evoking sunlit country that shows no sign of modern life, nor of people at all, except that you sense them through her fond memory.

Six of the artists will travel with staff to Darwin for the Lighthouse opening on August 13, following the announcement of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards on August 11. Margaret Boko is a finalist in the awards, as well as in the Togart Prize for Territory artists, which will be announced on September 8.  Alison Inkamala is also a finalist in the Togart.

Alongside all this activity another town camp family has created their own jewelry line, fashioning earrings and brooches out of bottletops which they paint with colourful designs. Some of the recycled bottletops are beaten flat and painted on both sides. Others are pressed into a dome shape and paired, a bit like castanets, with different designs on the outside surfaces.

Louise Daniels observed the technique in a workshop, took the idea home and her relatives have responded with enthusiasm. The pieces have been selling well from stalls at special events and soon will be featuring regularly at the Sunday markets. At $10 for brooches, $20 for a pair of earrings, they make a unique affordable gift while further down the track the family may look at developing more than one range.

SLIDE SHOW:

Margaret Boko at work on a mural section at the warehouse; warehouse interior; story painting by Margaret Boko; Dan Jones; a landscape by Alison Inkamala followed by the artist herself;  jewelry makers, Maryanne Gibson and Cherolyn Gibson; some of their earrings; camp life in a narrative scene and close-up by Margaret Boko.

 

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