Mandy Martin, Mangkaja Residency, June 2010
This is fourth year I have painted Gooniyandi Country with artists from Muludja and particularly the Cherel family. Everyone seemed to want to come, we had 13 people painting in all, excluding Henry Surprise who took photos for me, and I arrived early after the short drive over the Fitzroy River from Fossil Downs to pick people up. June Davis and Mervyn Street brought their own 4WD, with Travis Leonard driving and Rohnanna Cherel, Jai Cherel, Henry Surprise, Fabian Davis, Tessie Cherabun, Bronwyn Malo and Jane and Ann Halloway all climbing in as well. I took Isaac, Edna and Katrina Cherel along with me for the 2 ½ hour drive out to Painted Rocks on Fossil Downs. We met up with the group of visitors who had been at Fossil Downs Station owner, John Henwood’s 70th birthday in Broome, for smoko and demolished a few slabs of John’s birthday cake made in the shape of a grader and with thick yellow and black icing. The reunion was emotional, Merrilee MacDonald, Fossil Downs descendent, is a fluent Gooniyandi/ Giya speaker. Henry Surprise and Mervyn Street were also pleased to see their old Fossil Downs stockman friends, Bill O’ Dougherty and Peter Gray.
Some of the younger people hadn’t visited Painted Rocks or as Gooniyandi Cherel, named them, Imanara, and spent a long time exploring the site.
The men were very excited to point out the holes where in the old days, they stored their bush tucker to keep it cool and away from predators.
The rock art is ancient and most significant and it was moving to hear a group of people at the site all talking in their own tongue with great respect and excitement.
After exploring the rock paintings and rock markings, we moved back a kilometre or so to a site Mervyn had chosen as we had approached earlier in the morning, everyone set up and painted for some hours except Henry Surprise who took photos for us.
At the end of the afternoon we all went fishing at a nearby spring and the women pulled in perch and bream with out effort it seemed, then cooked them immediately.
The dying hours of the day were spent trying to change a flat tyre, a long and difficult job requiring some real bush skills, we all got home a few hours later than planned. Issac Cherel was just able to show us the red sand, the only for many kilometres around, where the Rainbow Serpent had gone into the ground, before darkness fell.