Tjala

Okay so a couple of weeks ago, the Director of Tjala Arts contacted me, asking me if I was keen to come and work on the studio floor supporting the Elder women while she was in Sydney. I can’t tell you what a massive deal this is. Tjala Arts is one of the top art studios in the world. It’s a world renowned arts centre and many of the artists there are massive names, both in Aboriginal Art, and mainstream arts in general. The artists at Tjala have work in France, New York… You get the picture, it’s pretty massive. So I read this message on Facebook with a sharp intake of breath! For me, a no-name Aboriginal Artist who has only recently discovered her family – for me to sit with, make kapati for (cup-a-tea – I love these Anangu words that are just Ananguasised versions of English words!) fetch paint, brushes, edge canvases…. It’s literally a dream come true. So each day I threw Emmeline up on my back and went to work! It was during this week that my family came to find me – when I first stepped with trepidation through that hallowed, paint-splattered door, the women looked up at me – and then spoke amongst themselves. They knew exactly who I was. They probably knew more about me than I do! Early on, I heard mutterings of “kami” and “tjamu” (grandmother and grandfather). It turns out that many of these women are my relations. I have the blood of these amazing women – culturally strong, gifted artists – in my veins. That mist – that mist that feels like I have the weight of 60,000 years of culture and history descended on me again. It was an incredible week – I got to watch and learn from these women – an opportunity that many would give their right arm for. It was also so wonderful to develop a relationship with the Director of the centre. And it’s on that note that leads me to where I am right this second. Sitting on the step outside my house. It’s 10pm and it’s still at least 35 degrees. The residual heat of the day lingers, I’m listening to the howl of distant dingoes (there’s been a lot of that lately! I hope it’s mating season!) and the smell of paint and gesso is stuck in my nostrils. A couple of days ago I was standing in the art centre with Skye; “have you got a piece in for the Telstra Prize?” I was dumbfounded: “pfft! No! Of course not!”. The Telstra prize is probably the biggest prize in Aboriginal Art – the winners are artists whose work fetches tens of thousands of dollars. “You should! We always put emerging artists in! I’ll stretch you up some Belgian Linen! What size do you want?!” I was so taken aback that I was all “oh how about this?” Without really thinking – and now I have butterflies just thinking about the number of people that might see my work. Surely I have zero chance of actually winning – but what have I got to loose, right? So I’m sitting here waiting for my piece to dry… Wish me luck! 

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