Ralph, Thanks for your comment although I’m not sure that …

Comment on Birth of an art movement: the untold story by Kieran Finnane.

Ralph, Thanks for your comment although I’m not sure that any of what you say contradicts the account of the Aboriginal curators. In the article I have quoted Bobby West Tjupurrula from the interview I did with him on the instigating spark for the movement. Here is how he puts it in the catalogue:

“Pintupi people were having a hard time at Papunya. There was a lot of fighting, a lot of arguments and they wanted that to change … The Pintupi men wanted to show people in Papunya that they had really strong law, Tingarri. … They were giving it as a gift, that Tingarri. Warlpiri, Luritja, Anmatyerr, were watching, waiting for their turn …

“After that, after Tingarri, that’s when they did dot painting, body painting. Then they did that [Honey Ant] mural at the school, made it public, letting everyone know they were all together.”

In 1999 Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula gave a similar account to Paul Sweeney of ‘big ceremonies’ just before Geoffrey Bardon’s arrival:

“All the tjilpis in one place, big mob of old men teaching us. Not only Pintupi; there was Warlpiri, some Arrernte.”

Tolson’s account is quoted by Vivien Johnson in her book Streets of Papunya: The Re-invention of Papunya Painting (pp 64-5) when she is considering reasons from an Aboriginal perspective that Papunya people might have had for picking up their paintbrushes.

Bardon himself acknowledges this impetus for the murals in his 2004 account: “These murals as conceived by the Western Desert people, as I was to find out, were to satisfy an Aboriginal community split quite dramatically between tribal groups.” He characterised the ceremonies that had taken place as having required “a compromise between the Anmatjira, Aranda, Pintupi, Loritja and Warlpiri forms” and similarly the appropriateness of the murals had to be negotiated “between the four tribal groups at Papunya”. (Quoted by Johnson, p65)

Diane, Bardon’s invaluable contribution to the movement is acknowledged by the curators. The challenge I have highlighted is to his primacy as an instigator. In that story, the emphasis of the Aboriginal curators is on their own cultural processes. Luke Scholes’ essay gives a detailed account of Bardon’s role in his Papunya years, while also documenting the contributions of other non-Aboriginal people.

I don’t think any of the curators of this exhibition can be seen to be responding to an agenda of “government authorities”.

Recent Comments by Kieran Finnane

How much of our relationship with Aborigines is hypocrisy?
I haven’t seen the display at the Maritime Museum but I can imagine why a dugout canoe would be part of such a display if it is presenting an overview of Australian maritime history, for Indigenous watercraft were Australia’s original boats and Indigenous people, the first Australian seafarers.

I see from the museum’s website that it has a substantial collection of Indigenous watercraft (46 objects), as part of its Australian Register of Historic Vessels, which strives to be “the definitive online registry of historic vessels in Australia”. Inclusion of Indigenous watercraft is thus essential.

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@ Kylie Johnston. With respect, this is not a ‘media conversation’ but a report from a Town Council meeting open to the public.
Perhaps you will want to take up your concerns with Cr Auricht and Mr Doyle, whose comments are accurately reported.
Kind regards, Kieran Finnane.

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@ Alex Nelson. Councillor Paterson is mistaken. I have checked the audio of the meeting: he was clearly nominated by Cr Cocking and Cr de Brenni seconded the nomination.

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@ John Bell: Dr Nelson’s message about equality is clearly expressed in his words that I have cited, about Australians all being “equal – irrespective of politics, race or religion”.
On reflection, his meaning when he said “they denied their Aboriginality to fight and die for the young nation”, is likely referring to those who enlisted either having found a way around their exclusion from the armed forces on the basis of their race, or having had their Aboriginal descent overlooked. “Denied their Aboriginality” seems to me an unfortunate choice of words to cover these circumstances.
Readers may be interested in further details on this topic in an article on the War Memorial’s site:

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Phil, They did indeed suffer consequence, as the article above and the series of reports from the trials make clear. For victimless acts of civil disobedience they were tried under harsh Cold War era legislation, facing maximum penalties of seven years imprisonment. This hung over them for a year.
They were found guilty and were sentenced, proportionately to the nature of the offence and their circumstances. Fines ranged between $5000 and $1250. Considerable penalties for people who live their lives in voluntary simplicity, without substantial income, and in service of those in need.

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