how can one walk the earth of Australia and not think
of the people who have gone before
the crags sing of them
the water wells salty with tears
the earth is red as the blood that was shed upon it
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Country: In Aboriginal English, a person’s land, sea, sky, rivers, sites, seasons, plants and animals; place of heritage, belonging and spirituality; is called ‘Country’. (Source: Glossary of Indigenous Australian Terms, Australian Museum, Link.
More of my writing on aboriginal issues here. More of my haiku on this blog under categories here and on my old blog here. Feel free to have a browse.
‘spinifex dot painting country’ was first published in Journeys, an anthology published by Haiku Bindii, a local Adelaide Japanese poetry group. I don’t think they have any more copies but I have a few. If you are interested contact me here, and I can get one into the mail for you.
A series of photos juxtaposing one of my abstract field painting, with shots of nature that inspired me. The photos are taken at Shell Hill near Walkers Flat, South Australia. We loved to camp there, but people used to dump rubbish and hoon around in their cross country vehicles and bikes, tearing up the fragile earth. So when the local conservation group put fences up preventing access, we lost our favourite camp site, but the earth gained a lot of peace. Looking forward to going back soon to check out the land’s recovery.
The painting is from a series dealing with texture and mark.
Here are some photos of my studio around that time.
I don’t even know where a lot of these paintings are. Probably covered with different paintings. I lost heart with the series. I can’t believe how much time in my life I have wasted (still waste) doubting myself and my art. I only exhibited maybe five of this series. I still have the maroon one and a few others. But the others did make beautiful grounds for other work.
The paper for the mice was snitched from my granddaughter’s growing pile of discarded artwork. She makes heaps every day. It is all about process for her. She has very little regard for it after she has finished. That’s the way we all should be. Art should be free, and artists should be free. Artists should be paid a stipend. Or not. Anything to stop art being a commodity, and galleries from their nonsense of valuing one more than another because someone says it’s better or because more people like it on their walls or because it suits their marketing aims. All that leads to, is hungry artists who are desperate enough to sell their souls, and they do, on a regular basis, and then have to spend years at a therapists, or under the influence of some drug or other, until they find out that it’s all bullshit and they can go back to the process of process, like they did as a child. And that is if they are lucky.
Origami is process, at least for me at this stage. I like that it can go in the fire when it collects dust, or when there are too many rabbits or mice. I like that it is made of something flimsy, available, cheap, disposable, and recyclable, and that it has no real value. I know the masters’ work has real value, but mine won’t, because I will lose interest before I do enough to turn it from a craft into an art.
By the way, we keep some of my granddaughter’s stuff if we like it, and pin it on our walls. Sometimes we even make the mistake of telling her we like a particular piece.
Credits: The rabbit on the left was designed by Jun Maekawa. The blue one (obviously a very curious rabbit) I learnt at Tavin’s Origami Instructions. The Duckling was designed by Hoang Tien Quyet. I don’t know who designed the elephant. My daughter has been making it since she was a child. She taught me. The Mouse was designed by Tetsuya Gotani.
I’m paraphrasing, but I once heard an interview with John Berger in which he said:
‘At the crossroads in the centre of the village is a cross. There’s another one in the next village and the one after that. The crosses are joined by roads and by people walking or driving, this to the next and next and next, connecting us across the whole of the earth, though you may have to take a boat or plane to the next one. And that’s what the horizontal bar of the cross means, this connection of all people across the globe .
‘And the vertical direction of the cross? Up here…’ he holds his hand open palmed towards the sky and brings it down, drawing the fingers together as he speaks, ‘are those not yet born, the ones coming into being. And down there are our ancestors, the ones who came before, who we have laid in the earth.
‘And the centre is one’s own single heart connected across time and space with every other single heart.’
Berger probably said it nothing like that; it was a long time ago. It is his concept but I no longer remember where he ended and I elaborated.
Well… it doesn’t matter how we are all connected. The fact is, we are. Not just people either, the whole shebang, even inanimate objects, earth, air, stars. Nothing in this universe is not interconnected. Simple.
When my daughter was a teenager, she came home from school one day and said to Ervin, ‘Where’s Mum?’ and Ervin said, ‘I swapped her for a piggy.’ and Hana said, ‘Where’s the piggy?’ So they referred to me as The Piggy for a while. I didn’t mind; I love pigs.
We kept them when I was a child. My brothers would catch the slowest piglets from a wild brood. One or two at a time. My first pig was called James Cook Memorial Pig (James for short) because it was the bicentennial of Cook’s landing in Australia that year and I was learning all about it in social studies. (Well, all about the white side of it.)
Did you know that pig is the closest to human milk? If you’re going to give your baby another animal’s milk, it would be best to use pig!
Here, the local council insists that we can’t keep pigs, except on concrete floors attached to a septic system, because we are in the city’s water catchment, and because pigs are genetically so close to humans that we share the same diseases. Meanwhile apples rot on the earth of orchards and the farmers spray the trees with chemicals because codling moth over-winters in windfalls. Pigs and apples go together. Poisons and people don’t.
Nonetheless, despite the council, a couple of years ago a pig appeared at our place.
We called her Alice, as in wonderland. She ploughed up the dirt all around the house with her nose. The council said it wasn’t their problem, that they only collect stray dogs, not stray pigs. The RSPCA said that they only deal with animals in distress. The police said they could only act if she was on the road. I said, ‘But we live on a blind corner. Someone’ll run into her. Have you ever hit a pig? My dad hit a pig; it’s like hitting a rock.’ ‘Look, there’s nothing we can do.’ So Alice stayed, for a week, and then one morning she wasn’t there. She probably went home and became the ‘pig on spit saturday’ advertised at the local pub.
Pigs are very nice people. They smile and nudge your leg for scratches. They leave round muddy nose prints on your bare legs as a gesture of affection. Given room they create their own toilet patch. Perhaps it would be best not to fall down amongst feral pigs if they were hungry, but they haven’t created any wars and, if they know you, they love you. Easily as intelligent as a dog and nicer really, because they don’t need a pack.
And then you eat them. I ate James and several other friends. It’s the simple reality of life. Life eats life. Life eats death. Even a lettuce loves its life; all it wants is to produce seed. Right now my body hosts several kilos of life forms that are not what I call me. When I kark it we will all add to the great mass of life with the nutrients that are our bodies. Piggy will go back to earth. From whence we came.
I don’t do rage. Indignaty yes, tears plenty, but not rage, not anger, not since I was twelve — boarding school, second month.
It was the vice-head prefect. On the third day she sent me out to polish my shoes. ‘I have polished my shoes,’ I said. She sent me out anyway and did so nearly every morning after that.
Then one evening she accused me of something else I didn’t do and I accused her of picking on me and she accused me of being cheeky and I accused her of being mean and she gave me detention and this went to and fro until the whole school was watching and we were yelling at each other and I had five detentions and she didn’t have a punch on the nose even though she deserved it.
But next morning, when I came to breakfast late because I had been sent out again to polish my shoes, the headmistress called me over and asked where I had been and I told her. She said, ‘Didn’t you come late yesterday?’ I said ‘Yes, the vice-head prefect sends me out most mornings because she says I haven’t polished my shoes.’ ‘And have you?’ ‘Yes,’ I said and she asked, ‘Why do you suppose she does that?’ But I didn’t tell her what I thought. I said meekly (and I’ve done meekly ever since), ‘I think these shoes are not a shiny sort of shoe.’ And we both looked down at the soft brown shoes and she sent me to my breakfast.
It didn’t happen after that but then neither did anger.