Today was a big celebration in Warmun for their Aboriginal Art Centre which has been open for 20 years. It has a world wide reputation with pieces in Paris and significant art galleries globally. Think we mentioned that Warmun is 35 kilometres up Highway 1 from Frog Hollow with a lot of the kids that go to the Frog Hollow school being from Warmun.
The celebrations started in the morning with us accompanying all the school kids to the smoking of the guests. This is an Aboriginal greeting into the community. In a lot of ways it is similar to smudging in the First Nations people in Canada.
Following a few speeches there was a fashion show by the local kids who designed the clothes and also showed them off.
You could also follow a tour through the art gallery guided by one of the elders with explanations of their art works. The most expensive piece we saw was $18,000 , so not what you would call cheap. The artist only gets 50% of this with the rest going to the gallery. Lots of big corporations buy the larger art work for their offices and as investment. Unfortunately, like a lot of this stuff, white fella gets in and starts exploiting the Aboriginal. Amanda was telling us they have done formal enquiries into how art centres are managed around Australia because of the exploitation that has gone on.
Whilst waiting for the ceremony to begin we wandered around the grounds and came across this fella.
We knew there would be an evening meal and that bush tucker was going to be included and this freshie (Johnson crocodile) was part of it plus no doubt there would be roo. For other meat they usually wander out and rustle a couple of cows off one of the stations without mentioning it to the pastoralist. Oh well, what’s your is mine and what is mine is yours. They are a very sharing society.
Apparently it took a round of bullets to kill the croc yesterday and then they threw it in the freezer and pulled it out this morning. It was all twisted up due to not fitting in the freezer so they were thawing it out in the sun. One of the elders then turned up and started stretching it and changing it back into its normal shape and the sound was unpleasant to listen to. As you can see, the kids got stuck into playing with it.
This particular croc was not a lot smaller than the average freshie, so you can see they are much different to the Saltie who can be up to six meters in length. Also note how thin the snout is. They say they can’t kill you but we reckon they could have a good chew on you.
There were demonstrations of mat weaving using local flax bushes but unfortunately none of the younger kids were interested in learning how to do it.
We caught up with some of the other Frog Hollow school kids who live in Warmun who were still pretty thrilled with their Canada caps. They are all into hip hop in a big way and have written a song and performed it which they have posted on you tube. It is really very good.
After all the various ceremonies, we went for a little drive around town and came upon this great photo opportunity.
Warmun was washed away in a flood in 2011 and had to be completely rebuilt so everything is only about six years old. What we struggle with though is that they have no concept of picking up rubbish just like First Nations reservations and are just littered with rubbish everywhere. If they love their land so much, why not respect it by picking up the rubbish. There are lots of dogs just roaming around and not unusual to see them fighting yet they don’t do anything about neutering them – same problem in Canada. Cats are a huge problem in Australia as they kill for fun and are irradicating a lot of the natural wildlife and once again they don’t neuter them. Some of it just doesn’t make sense.
Look closely at this photo and you can see a fridge up the gum tree. This is the height of the flood which was four meters above the river bed. It has been up there for seven years and will remain so until the tree dies – why doesn’t someone remove it?
We then headed to the local pool for another swim with heaps of kids who see us as a big novelty. They are yelling out Miss Diana and Sir Fraser for our attention. These are hangover titles from the days of the pastoralist when they use to refer to the owners of the properties. Many Aboriginals use to work on the stations and they were paid in supplies such as flour, butter, sugar etc but not alcohol. There was a vote in 1967 which gave the Aboriginal the right to be citizens and not come under the animal act any more – true, look it up. The last Aboriginal to be used as the fox in fox hunting was in Tasmania during the 1930’s. Back to the point though regarding the vote of 1967. Because they were reclassified as citizens, they had to be paid in wages which was more expensive than paying them in supplies. This resulted in many of them losing their jobs on the stations as the pastoralists either couldn’t afford to pay them or didn’t want to pay them. From there it pretty much went downhill for them in respect of loss of self worth and identity. Reservations were established and then alcohol crept it and well, you know the rest of the story.
It was back to the Art Centre for the jumba which we think is the same as a caroborrie and a chance to try some gator.
Alas, they gave the gator to the elders and we got the cow and some fish.
It is very special to see this kind of get together and especially with so many people dancing.
There is a problem in all the communities where the young people between about 25-40 years of age are absent as they are either drunk or stoned and not learning the way of their culture. We were talking to Sister Theresa who has been in Warmun since 1975 and she was saying it takes about four to five generations before you start to see a significant improvement in the literacy levels which hopefully will break this viscious circle.
After a pretty long night and lots of tucker it was back to Frog Hollow with a car full of kids to see the full moon over Frog a hollow.
There will be a combined blog for tomorrow and the next day as it will be a slow day as temperatures are expected to be high again and the day after that will be a travel day to Broome.