Paruku, Desert Lake

Blog 6 The Paruku Project, 4-22 August 2011

Blog 6 The Paruku Project After our Welcome to Country, we established a pattern to the working day, Guy and I getting up just before first light at 5 am to start the fire for the billy and coffee, get breakfast going, put out the lunch for people to make up packed lunches and preparing the evening meal. David Leece and I would start painting by about 6 am either in camp or on the lake while the conversations around the fire rolled on and early morning walkers and birdwatchers ambled back into camp.

Campsite at Dawn. Photo David Leece

David and I both were struggling to find a visual language for the lake, I had worked there twice before so knew I wanted to make 5 panel studies for paintings but other than that we both plunged in fairly blindly, allowing the lake to talk to us.

Guy and Steve, (the scientists) and volunteer Chris Curran, with mechanical skills, were off to the community by 8.00 am to work with the rangers if they didn’t come by the camp first to collect them. They worked on eradicating Parkinsonia weed, looking at bilby burrow sites, estimating cattle numbers, looking at feral horse damage and a bit of hunting! Chris was the community hero for fixing the fuel pump so everyone could buy the fuel! Not to mention the water pump and so on… Bill Fox, with his ubiquitous notebook, (clasped at a weird left handed angle which meant one could never cheat and read what he had written down) and noticing probably too much, and Gill Taylor, after wrapping up lunch usually for 12 people, hopped into which ever vehicle appealed to them or had room, often the art one but sometimes the ranger/ science one and headed out of camp for the morning exodus.

By 8.30 David and I were off to Mulan also to open up and work with the competent and committed art centre coordinator, Jacinta Lulu. The painting went on like a wildfire the first few days and soon most of the canvases were bagsed and swaps started happening to maximise access to the canvases. Kim was able to re-stretch some more using the original frames as the week went on. She drew up a 5 panel work herself and started painting and Gill found some private time to start a canvas also.

Wednesday was a big day with a school session in the mid-morning, Kim had prepared 48 canvas board panels, with an ochre coloured ground and a projected aerial map of the Paruku Lake system painted onto it. Elder Hanson Pye joined us in a session with the kids where we discussed the lake and what animals and birds could be found in different places. Kim chalked those names on the maps. This was a high voltage session and it took all hands on deck to help the kids paint emus, kangaroo, brolgas, swans and so on, on the separate panels of the map. This work continued in week 2 with the Paruku donors when they visited and since leaving, Kim and some of women from the Warruyanta centre have continued this map with the kids.

Kim Mahood and Hansen Pye running the mapping session.