November 17, 2012 - Fremantle Arts Centre - A Martu experience of the Western Desert
November 17, 2012

A Martu experience of the Western Desert

Marra (Catch it).Photo: Gabrielle Sullivan.

We don’t need a map: A Martu experience of the Western Desert
presented by Fremantle Arts Centre, Martumili Artists, Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa, and BHP Billiton
17 November 2012–20 January 2013

Fremantle Arts Centre
1 Finnerty Street
Fremantle, Western Australia

Bringing the desert to the city, We don’t need a map is a major new exhibition celebrating the distinct and joyful visual language of the Martu and their connection to country. This expansive exhibition, taking place at Fremantle Arts Centre from November to January, provides a nuanced insight into Martu life and cultural practice, capturing the humour and spirit of the Martu people and providing an opportunity for urban audiences to immerse themselves in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of desert life.

The Martu are the traditional owners of a vast area of Western Australia’s Western Desert, covering over 20 million hectares. We don’t need a map is a celebratory statement that expresses their deeply embedded understanding of the Western Desert and the layered interpretations of the land. The artworks, artifacts and events of We don’t need a map provide a multifaceted portrait of Martu life; from significant paintings documenting Martu culture to illustrative snapshots of daily life—such as camel hunts and community football matches—painted by younger contemporary artists.

The painting component of the exhibition includes the spectacular five-by-three meter Karlamilyi painting by Lily Long and Amy French, a complex and layered work filled with information about journeys through country, ancestral beings, animals and plants, waterholes and other sites of significance connected to Amy and Lily’s country. These large-scale Martu works are highly sought after by international galleries and national collections. Alongside this, more than 30 paintings and drawings have been selected to explore the Martu’s experience of the Western Desert, works that are experimental, contemporary and suffused with Martu experience. Works have been chosen to explore significant sites and themes such as the use of fire in land management practices.

We don’t need a map has commissioned a number of new works that are the outcome of extensive collaborations between Martu and non-Martu artists. These collaborations bring Martu artistic skills and knowledge to a new community of non-Martu artists, while different artistic perspectives and techniques are brought back to the community and incorporated into the always growing and adaptive Martu practice. The Phone Booth Project, by Martu filmmaker Curtis Taylor and Melbourne visual artist Lily Hibberd is a multi-channel video installation which celebrates the robust, adaptable and colloquial aspects of daily life through the public phone booths central to communication between communities.

Curtis Taylor said, “making this work is a new way for our people. I’m making this work to show the outside world how we live.”

Yunkurra Billy Atkins’s animation sees Martumili’s most senior artist’s striking visual vocabulary—dramatic stories of cannibal babies, ancestral weaponry and dangerous country—brought to life by award-winning animator Sohan Ariel Hayes.

Internationally acclaimed artist Lynette Wallworth is renowned for her immersive video installations. Invited by Martu artists to respond to country, the Sydney-based artist travelled to Martu country with community members and longtime collaborator Pete Brundle to learn about the Martu. The resulting work draws viewers into an understanding of the Martu and their inextricable connection to the Western Desert, via the eyes and ears of a newcomer to that country.

Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ), a Martu-controlled organisation based in Newman that seeks to build strong, sustainable communities based on Martu culture and knowledge, are providing land interpretation and mapping material for the exhibition. KJ Ranger teams combine traditional land-management practices with contemporary environmental monitoring and management skills. KJ worked with the curatorial team to provide information on how the rangers interact with country, linking the knowledge embodied in the paintings with sites, species, stories and landforms. KJ will also contribute to the public program Martu Mob at FAC, as their rangers and Mankarr workers talk about caring for country.

The exhibition will also include a collection of Martu cultural objects, including wooden spears and finely wrought baskets. These objects show the blending of traditional skills with new materials and techniques explored by the Martu.

Fremantle Arts Centre
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