University of Melbourne - Baillieu Library - 2004

I was introduced into Aboriginal Australia in 1998 by Dr. Karmananda Saraswati, whilst I was working toward a series of paintings based on Patrick White’s myth of Voss, who disappeared into what could well have been Alyawarere country. My introduction to the Alyawarere community was through its most senior lawman, Albert Akamara Bailey; who was the chairman of the board of the Aboriginal Health Service at Utopia. To grace this auspicious meeting, the doctor of the Utopia community, Dr Karmananda Saraswati, suggested I paint Albert’s portrait for the clinic. In this context we could come to know each other. Albert’s openness to the intimate act of portraiture forged an ongoing connection with the broader Utopia community. Albert’s portrait now hangs in the clinic, along with a number of my portraits of the board members of the Utopia community health service, painted over that next several years. Significantly, each of these portraits have been painted in the context of their subject’s sacred site, as such they are all entitled; 'Sacred Title'. The success of this introduction enabled me the permission to paint the landscape and to meet people within the Utopia community.

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The portraits pictured above are not of the elders but represent a selection of the portraits I painted around the various outstations which consitute Utopia.

 

Ten years on, in 2008, I received a call from Karmananda explaining that Albert and the Aboriginal board at Utopia now wanted to commission two large paintings.  This time of all the traditional elders of the Utopia community. It seems that the earlier portraits had documented their fragile history and substantiated their claim to land rights, but they have also had an enduring affect on the broader sense of community identity. As the Utopia outstations had begun to unite under the ‘Alyawarere Nation’ project, they have begun to value the contribution that these paintings have made to the integrity of their ongoing cultural identity. All the male elders were painted on one canvas and all the significant female law women were painted on another.  Each of these canvasses were approx 1.3 ms  X 2 ms each - making the total scape approx 1.3 ms (high) X 4 ms (wide) -  Click on 'Next' page to view images of the final  'Sacred Title' paintings, commissioned by the Aboriginal elders at Utopia.