|Main Gallery One, at Araluen Cultural Precinct, with a stunning Adi Dunlop needle-felted blanket banner. Plus hats on the tree, by local primary schools.|
I am very grateful that I could afford to make it out to Alice Springs again, for the 19th Beanie
Festival, at The Araluen Cultural Precinct.
I took the night train down to Sydney, to be able to catch a plane at a reasonable time. There are no flights, directly from the Gold Coast Airport, closest to where I live. There were some flights from Brisbane, which is about 3 hours away, but they leave at 6am, so I'd need to stay somewhere overnight, or leave home at 2am or so.
I thought the train trip would be fine, I'd get to sleep and arrive fresh to get out to the airport on suburban train, but thanks to a squeaky grinding noise beside/below me in the carriage, kept me awake all night !
It was a wet and cloudy morning, and due to an ill passenger, we sat on the tarmac for over an hour, while they ascertained if they were able to fly or not, and then to locate their luggage, so then our plane, had to wait for a new runway vacancy. It did mean the cloud cover had a chance to lift a bit so take-off was more visible. I missed seein the Blue Mountains due to cloud but did see the Simpson Desert areas beneath a dot painting of clouds.
This put me late arriving into Alice, and just missing the office hours of the backpackers I was staying at. I just felt like lying down and sleeping, lucky there was a sun lounger by the pool. Still no sleep 'tho.
Meeting Julie, was one of the highlights, as it turns out that I had met her younger sister there in 2013, and I had been very impressed with 'A'Kitson's deadly needle-felted hats 6 in the Main Gallery, where I'd met her late on opening night, as she and her friend Julie, shyly watched the slideshow of photos from the workshops held out on country.
I asked them where they were from, they shyly pointed to their community, the letters written in needle-felted bunting, Willowra or as the call it Wirliyajarryi, then I asked did they have any work in the exhibition, and we ended up over where they were hanging. A's work was extraordinary, very detailed, well finished neeedle-felting, she had 6 pieces in, which in itself is testament to her calibre, as only 2 hats are generally allowed these days due to the high number of beaniologists entering.
Over the four days of the 2013 festival she completed 4 or 5 more, sitting out at the needle-felting work tables, all outstanding ! She was highly motivated at this new medium, for painting her stories.
Earlier this year down at The Canberra Tent Embassy, on the anniversary of the apology, there was a gathering of GMAR, the National movement of GrandMothers Against forced Removals of kids, still going on today, worse than it ever was. I met 3 elder aunties, who'd made the trip from Willowra, which I found out, as I welcomed them into the Chai Tent. They told me that A was very sick in Katherine Hospital.
|Doreen, Audrey Martin, Barbara with Chris Tomlins behind|
The reason I have only been using A instead of her name, is because I learnt from Jason Quin the new Chief Beanieolgist, that she has passed away, which became a slight problem for me when talking to Julie Kitson this year, at dinner, When I learnt she comes from Willowra, I told her about meeting A in 2013, but having just learnt of her passing. I didn't want to offend Julie by saying her name. I was telling her about meeting the 3 Aunties down at Embassy etc, and in the end she told me it was OK to say her name. .... Turns out Audrey was her youngest sister, terribly sad loss. Cancer.
Julie had a broken arm, bandaged with just a back strap at first. It was broken as she defended herself from being hit over the head with a Nulla Nulla, by the senior elder at her community, because as the strong woman that she is, she stood up to his mis-management of their community !
It was good meeting Julie, roughly the same age as me, and easier to form a connection with than the elder aunties sitting weaving. Also quite interesting to meet all these people from the same community