Tjapangati, On the question of the government’s ‘lavish’ construction of …

Comment on Yuendumu writes new chapter on the beginnings of contemporary Western Desert art by Kieran Finnane.

Tjapangati, On the question of the government’s ‘lavish’ construction of the museum, the following is interesting. An article published in the 1972 edition of the Journal of the Royal Historical Society in Queensland sources its information, or perhaps reprints an article from Northern Territory Affairs, a periodical published by the Federal Government’s then Department of the Interior. A digital copy of the RHSQ article is available online.

The article reports the museum cost $14,000, of which $7000 came from the Aboriginal Trust Fund (a fund receiving mining royalties from operations on Aboriginal reserves, this being in the days prior to Land Rights). According to the article, “The remaining $7000 was raised by the Aboriginal people themselves.”

The article also reports an extension to the recreation hall in Yuendumu at a cost of $54,000, with $25,000 coming again from the ABTF, and “the remainder from the settlement’s Social Club”. In comparison, the cost of the museum appears quite modest.

Kieran Finnane Also Commented

Yuendumu writes new chapter on the beginnings of contemporary Western Desert art
Tjapangati, a few points:

• An artist wanting a monetary return on his or her work does not negate cultural reasons for doing that work, nor the work’s life in the culture independent of the artist’s intention.
• Your suggestion that there is no connection between the museum and the later painting movement ignores the visual evidence – the continuity in the iconography – and the historical evidence – some of the same artists going on to be involved in the painting of the school doors in 1984 and the founding of Warlukurlangu Artists in 1985,among them P. Japaljarri Stewart and P. Japaljarri Sims.
• I specifically make the point that recognition of what was happening at Yuendumu is not about ‘usurping’ the place of what happened at Papunya.
• The point about the insecurity of the murals at Papunya is suggested as a possibility. I should have sourced it anyway to Philip Jones. In his book Behind the Doors, he writes: “Without a secure and private space, the Pintubi artists had little alternative but to place their designs onto temporary and transient surfaces. Encouraged in this by Geoffrey Bardon, their art soon became both marketable and market-sensitive … The situation at Yuendumu offers a great contrast, for almost at the same time, the Warlpiri’s first efforts at mural painting were made securely and privately, on the internal walls of their own newly built museum.”

Recent Comments by Kieran Finnane

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@John Bell. My comment is straightforward: solid support from voters deserves a solid performance on council. For further explanation, re-read the pre-election profile I wrote about Ms Price (my comment provides the hotlink), acknowledging her many qualities while scrutinising her performance on the past council. This was based on a lengthy interview with her and my consistent attending and reporting of council for the length of her term.

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In the course of our everyday human relations trying to be open to one another irrespective of race, gender and age is a good starting point. In analysing social relations, it is naive if not disingenuous to suggest that these things don’t matter.
Whiteness, maleness, and age correlate strongly with power in our society. These factors are expressed in very real life conditions, all of which are evident in Australia and here in Alice Springs: being subject to violence, mortality and morbidity rates, property ownership, pay gaps, poverty levels, holding executive positions, holding political office.
It can be hard for white men, however well-meaning, to recognise as anything other than normal the situation that gives them unequal access to power. With their power intact, it is easy for them to then proclaim that the system ain’t broke and doesn’t need fixing, that they are blind to race, gender and age, that we are all equals.
The last Town Council was dominated by middle-aged and older white men, who also all had small business backgrounds. This make-up is not reflective of the community make-up, although it is undoubtedly reflective of its power relations.
The Development Consent Authority is another powerful group that has been dominated by the same demographic.
(See Erwin Chanda’s analysis here and my subsequent report here.)
The outgoing town councillors had an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to being more diversely representative when they last voted for the Deputy Mayor’s position (which rotates every 12 months). Cr Jade Kudrenko’s strong performance on council, combined with her many personal qualities, equipped her well for the role, but the dominant group on council backed their man, even though he had been in office just five months. He is a man like them in every obvious way except with fewer grey hairs, Cr Jamie de Brenni.
(See my comment here.)
This had political consequence. The Deputy Mayor’s position comes with a lot of opportunity to be out and about in the community. It’s an excellent preparing ground for assuming a greater political role and so keeping power in the family. Cr de Brenni has had the added advantage of extra time in the role when it might have been changed in March this year, giving him a higher-profile run all the way to this election.
It would be interesting to see this seemingly normal state of affairs tested by an upset result in the election that is underway. There are highly credible candidates in the field reflecting a far more diverse range of backgrounds, experiences and worldviews not to mention gender than was reflected on the last council.

Surprising conservative on council: Jacinta Price
Steve, You are reading far too much into this. My reference to the “old white fellas” was a light-hearted shorthand for the closely-aligned block on council that I otherwise describe as conservative. Councillor Price took it light-heartedly, as reported in the article – she laughed and answered the question without a hint of offence or defensiveness.
Any calm consideration of my journalism over the years would dispel any notion of me backing a “black and white judgemental politics of division”. On the contrary.
In this article I am simply speaking of a real division on council, between the majority block to which you belonged, as did Cr Price, and the rest (in the minority and less consistently united). Not all or even the majority of issues split council along these lines, but the more controversial ones did.

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