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Message Stick -

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Welcome to Message Stick. Hello, I'm Miriam Corowa. continues to hold its own Indigenous Australian art on the international stage, now seeing their works with many artists revered galleries and museums exhibited in the most the world has to offer. And now journalists and collectors are beginning to venture down under of these great artworks. to find the source that's drawn their attention One prolific community North-West Arnhem Land, is Maningrida in country and culture where the connection between through the power of rarrk. comes alive on the canvas

to Aboriginal art The exposure you can get has changed dramatically. in such a short period That's quite incredible

how it has developed. and it's exciting. It's really happening

I'm also very intrigued... this sort of painting. ..by how you come to do those paintings, When I first looked at sort of instant um, yeah, there was this sort of loving and beauty.

they have something behind them And I just sense that had some power. the context of the projects. It is important to understand You know, who is doing what. But that's the same with any art. you appreciate it You would look at it, a little bit more about this person and then you want to know and what's going on.

an extraordinary moment Well, I think we're living in

and it's happening right here. in terms of an art movement, outside, it was burgeoning It's - you know, and it's still in the process.

We haven't seen it all.

My mistake. (Men speak inaudibly in background) We'll paint it - ugh!

was enough. For me, that visual emotion

that puzzles me a bit That's something "Ah, I like the painting, when people say,

"but I want to understand." when you look at art, for me. You don't need to understand it has to bring emotions. It has to touch you, That's when I appreciate art.

started as an artist Anniebell Marrngamarrga just making baskets, twine bags.

when she was quite young She was taught by her mother the Art Centre about 15 years ago. and she started to work for with other artists But the main difference

who now work in that manner is the use of the colours. she was making rarrk And it's almost like but with pandanus. the other striking difference And, also, the... is how tight her weave is.

See, the basis of the work is like any fibre artist,

gather your pandanus, which means you have to which is this raw, green plant. And then, that, you have to process. to make it in fine strings You got to strip it but then, in the case of Anniebell, you also need to colour it. it's a very long process And, so, the process, making your art. before you even start

Yay! (Laughs) (Speaks Indigenous language)

(Speaks Indigenous language) And we call that... And that purple and red one... We call it... (Speaks Indigenous language) And we get that black one... (Speaks Aboriginal language) That leaf... With this new art form, the right medium she has found the right...um... to express herself, her creativity.

the importance of her Dreamings. The importance of the land,

And it's very rewarding to see an artist finally finding the best way to express herself. That's why I'm not going anywhere and I stay here for years and years. the work from Maningrida The Cooinda art - in particular, around John Mawurndjul and particularly the group in the past 10 or 15 years. has been extremely innovative very quickly in this art. Things have moved very, The...its importance in the market, its importance to collectors. Um...and what's happened is breathing contemporary art. it shows that it's a living,

When you buy a bark painting or look at a bark painting, or when you acquire or a depiction you're not looking at a reproduction of that country.

on the bark or the pole at all, Before any paint is put it's already a piece of the country. you're looking at... And I think that that comes through.

a piece of the story It's...you actually have they even put... in your possession before ..put anything on it.

is the cross hatching The rarrk itself formal aspects of the painting. that...that breaks up the different The rarrk actually comes, initially, from, originally, from body painting. So the ceremonial...origins of rarrk their power. is what gives the paintings It...it's almost a literal, you know, a literal depiction to be in that place. of what it feels like Maningrida's a remote community Well, and I stress the word 'remote'. about 500 - It's about 500km from Darwin. quite isolated. It's difficult to get to,

It's in North-West Arnhem Land. The art there goes back a long time. around Maningrida But the art that's centred building up for it in terms of the marketplace began in the early 1970s. in terms of There's been a tremendous change in that time. how the movement has developed In the last five years in particular, taking the work overseas. there's been great success And it's touching a nerve from around the world. and really moving people unique experience to come here I felt that it was an absolutely

the degree of emotional depth and I've experienced the... when they're talking about that these artists have the roots of the work. what infuses the work. And I think that's comes across in the work. I think that calculating abstraction. So we're not talking about a cold, We're talking about an abstraction

very emotive which is actually transmitting

mythologies about the land and deeply important and the people's connection connection to the land. and that particular artist's about it in very practical terms, Although the artist might talk

there's a great emotionality there as well. One can tell how fundamentally important this work is. It's not something which the artists produce as decoration, you know. These are serious contemporary artists making serious contemporary works of art. And they happen to be based in the land, in the country, as opposed to in the city. I think one of the really interesting things about Australian Aboriginal art has been the incredible amount of innovation that one sees, that these really are artists. And they're making choices and they're making decisions about what colours they want to use, what images they want to paint, how to present.

I mean, they're very grounded in their cultures and their traditions and they have particular stories that they may want to present

or landscape or seascape that they feel a need to...to portray.

But the choices that they've made about how to do that are quite remarkable. One of the most innovative forms of contemporary art that I'd seen in a long time - very exciting, very dynamic. One of the things that artists continually reiterate

is that the way they want to share this connection, this connection with country with a broader audience. And they...they reiterate often that, "We want people to understand this connection. "We want people to believe in what we believe "about the spiritual links between people and country." And painting, I think, has become a very important means

to be able to educate the world, these days, about that particular connection.

Because that painting is, number one, for us, to give us law

and a...spirit and a power

to stay in our own country. LUKE TAYLOR: People say that the power is still, of the creator beings, is still in the land. So there are particular places in the landscape where one might visit and people say that the power resides in that place. The ancestral being is still living inside the earth at that place.

And it's protected by the Rainbow Serpent. That if anyone were to damage this place, the Rainbow Serpent would rise up and devour the people who are transgressing. Paintings capture this ever-present energy, if you like. It's another way of communing with this power.

The West thinks it has a monopoly on modernism. But I think modernism is something which can occur anywhere at any time. And what we're seeing in this group of painters is, if you like, an Indigenous expression of modernism. It's to do with those artists exploring new ways of expressing old stories.

It's to do with them finding new visual means to embody those myths.

The artists began to push the boundaries, began to find out what was possible within that form. And each artist is doing it in their own way. Their finding their own way of pushing the possible within the work.

So you're looking at something which, although it's abstract, it also exists as an object which is made

of the substance which it is representing. It is actually of the landscape. Modernism isn't just something that happened in the West. It's something which can occur in artistic practice anywhere in the world.

(Man plays didgeridoo)

You've got culture, I've got my own culture. You got song, I got song. I dance, you dance. (Sings in Indigenous language) After, keep going with this dancing, singing. Still keep going.

That's my culture. (Sings in Indigenous language)

We didn't believe that the market here was quite ready to even absorb the quality of the work that was turning up. I remember putting together the sale we did in 1996, going, "This sale's just, you know, the material is phenomenal "and the Australian market really aren't quite ready for it." There were certain people who were and certain institutions that were, but, as a whole, you know, the quality that was there, you know, couldn't have been absorbed by the Australian market as it was at that time.

So, we had to take it to the world market

and we're lucky that the world market embraced it. This is an extremely poignant time, where the strength of this work is, is, is so great that it, it, it, at the very least, deserves the discussion and the exposure in London, which is now, you know, the world's most important contemporary art city and venue. So it's with those things in mind that, I think, that, you know, bringing this work to London at the moment is extremely pressing and, ultimately, it will be extremely worthwhile. People look at the work and it's different, you know.

It's exciting because it is different. And they haven't seen it before. You know, it's like a new... it's like a revelation, I guess. When you look at the work, it's something completely different going on.

It's as different as looking at a Picasso

and comparing it to a Sunday painting landscape. It spoke to me in a way that all great art speaks to me. It communicated... it elicited an emotive response without knowing anything about the work at all. Just a tremendous emotive response. I just thought, you know, these things are beautiful.

BILL GREGORY: The primary interest, for me, in the work is this sense of ongoing surprise. I never know what's going to come next. Every couple of years, doing an exhibition of a certain artist, it's like Christmas going up to the communities and seeing what it is that they're producing.

And I think that when people make the...the connection

between the works of art and the land that they come from, I think that that is when... when the switch goes.

LUKE TAYLOR: When I first came here, people said to me, "We would like you to work with us "to help make other audiences believe.

"Believe in the power of this place, "believe in the power of the Dreaming,

"believe in the spirit that energises us "in relation to this country."

Hope you enjoyed the program. That's all for this week. If you'd like more information, check out our website. Closed Captions by CSI

This program is not subtitled

DRAMATIC MUSIC PLAYS

The world contains evil. And if it didn't contain evil,

we probably wouldn't need to try to construct religions. No evil, no God, I think. No, of course, no evil, now war.

But this is not a human possibility that we need to entertain. There will always be plenty of evil. And there'll always be wars. Because human beings are aggressive animals.

The hard won Allied victory in Europe had delighted Americans back home. But the hundreds of thousands of men still fighting in the Pacific knew that the war was far from over.

Eugene Sledge of Mobile, who had endured the horrors of the Battle of Peleliu, would once again be forced to enter what he called, "The abyss." Glenn Frazier from Fort Deposit, Alabama, who had survived 3.5 years of brutal captivity,

would find that the Japanese were not his only enemy. SEWING MACHINE WHIRRS And the people of Sacramento and Luverne, Waterbury and Mobile, and every other American town knew that there would be more bad news from the battlefield

before they could dare hope to know what it would be like to live once again in a world without war.

ARTILLERY THUDS SHELLS BOOM BATTLE RAGES

AUTOMATIC GUNFIRE It didn't really make much difference on Okinawa.

The Japanese were not gonna fight any less hard because Hitler was out of it. I suppose there was a certain satisfaction that we'd beaten that lot, and could now turn our attention entirely to this lot. But aside from that I don't think there was much excitement. CANNON FIRES RAPIDLY

ACTOR: "Nazi Germany might as well have been on the moon. "On Okinawa, no-one cared much. "We were resigned only to the fact "that the Japanese would fight to total extinction, "as they had elsewhere. "And that Japan would have to invaded "with the same gruesome prospects.

"Eugene Sledge."

The Battle for Okinawa was not going well.