Wednesday, April 18, 2007

maralinga - a strange colour in the sky

A few years ago I worked as a researcher on a documentary series about Australia and war; in the script there was a sequence set in the 1950s on the setting up of Woomera in preparation for the British Tests. I did a lot of research, including extensive research into the impact of the tests on the Yankunytjatjara, Antikarinya, Kokatha, Pitjantjatara and Yalata communities, the traditional owners. None of this research was used in the series. This response made me determined to at least name what happened there in this documentary ISLAND HOME COUNTRY. The tests represented another phase of the further colonisation of Australia by Britain.

Several weeks ago SBS news did an item on an anniversary of Woomera - and once again- no mention of the traditional owners. As if they don't exist. SBS is a national broadcaster. I am still amazed that they can make a news item that is so ignorant. It makes me more determined to show it in the film. I heard about the Oak Valley Community cultural project. The older men and women of the community said they wanted to paint the story of the land including the history of the tests and the fight for reclamation. This article says that "in the minds of many Australians still, the most prevalent image of Maralinga is of a mushroom cloud, while the community lives in the Great Victoria Desert, a land of immense beauty and incredible bio-diversity." This is interesting as so often Maralinga is represented by the atomic explosion images. I have now located some of the paintings by Jonathan Kumintjarra Brown and they are full of life in the face of death.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jeni, I have been looking at your blog via Sarah's - very impressed with your work and thinking. Will look forward to seeing your film. Yesterday we had a visit from Sal Brereton. She brought round a catalogue of her mother Janet Brereton's's fibre art works from the seventies and eighties. I thought you might like to know that she made an image called 'Maralinga', not of a mushroom cloud but tellingly of an Aboriginal face gradually disappearing into the warp and weft of her knots.

    So few of us have tried to address that suffering. Perhaps this image could be useful in your film? wishes Loma