The second week without paid mural work was unsteadying, slightly disturbing, remotely terrifying.
I used the time wisely, investing every ounce of my energy to get my mural concept for Ballina up and happening. It’s not always easy to trust when you feel the rug beneath your feet is being slowly dragged to the precipice but I never ever question that things will be OK.
Like the bumper sticker promises: Magic Happens. And it happens when we trust.
My son Seth is a landscaper. Building rock walls is his practice and a few weeks back he was called out to a property ten kms along a dirt road out of Coraki, a hamlet on the Richmond River that has a strong Aboriginal footprint. Seth created a meandering rock path for the property owners, Pamela and Fiona. Walking past their door one day he noticed a print of my 'Last Supper’ propped up against a wall in their house. He casually leaned in and said, ‘my mum painted that’.
Shortly after Seth’s work was done, Denise, who cares for my website, told me about an order for a limited edition print of "Shine” and that Pamela from Coraki would come to collect it from my home. Clearly the same person.
Pamela and Fiona’s visit opened more than my door. They told me how they had collected my art prints over many years but had never seen the original paintings or known about the paintings’ written stories. I still have a few original works including BreakAway, Land Rights and The Human Race so I gave them a tour and shared the stories. As I spoke I could tell that familiar paintings were revealing hidden secrets to the women and in response, they shed a few tears. They were genuinely, deeply touched and something about that day moved me and reminded me that the collection of paintings connects people at a level that transcends the decorative. It’s all about the story and how story connects.
I received a text from Pamela and Fiona, “We hope you will consider us buying Land Rights”. My favourite painting has a kangaroo boxing a cow while a female Elder speaks to her grandson about invisible song lines that bisect the visible roads. Her son, once stolen and taken away on those roads, looks on, his spirit broken, a generation culturally skipped. This painting has served to prove my empathy to Aboriginal people. It is a consciousness that has connected me and created friendship.
I trusted the timing of this sale and that the painting was going to the right people and so I said yes to the women.
Letting go of Land Rights was a huge catalyst for action. I picked up a small brush for the first time in years and began a new painting. I also picked up the phone. I needed to bring everyone who mattered together in a circle so the vision for Ballina could become a reality.
Acclaimed artist Uncle Digby Moran, my dear friends Tania and Tammy from Bunjum, Jali Land Council’s CEO David Brown and Aunty Nita Roberts all agreed to meet. On Thursday next week we will sit in Circle at 2pm along with the CEO of an organisation with the resources and spirit to support the way forward.
Ballina will have a new visual identity that celebrates culture and art through the depiction of life lived pre-European settlement, one that speaks of sustainable land management practices and culture, one that educates. A public art gallery that will heal, attract attention and bring awareness.
My main desire is that Clean Slate will become a platform for Aboriginal creative industry. My bank manager Nina believes in my work, she and her partner, a farmer who knows how to build a shed, have offered to volunteer and do what they can to mend the broken buildings on Cabbage Tree Island so the Saltwater Women and other creative groups can once again become productive and thrive. We will all meet on Cabbage Tree Island later that afternoon to see what is required to do just that.
The Richmond River connects Ballina to Coraki. It’s ironic that the Aboriginal community near Coraki is called Box Ridge; now home to a boxing kangaroo and cow.