In 1916 the Rev James Watson arrived at Warruwi in Arnhem Land, he established the first mission in that area. July this year marked the 100 year anniversary of this event. Many of the people and their families that have worked on the island with the community during this time were invited back for this significant day. People came from all around, and from all states, my family had lived on the island in the 1970’s, my father worked as a community advisor serving the local community as the governance was handed back to Land Councils.
Over 60 people flew in that day on small aircraft, I had wanted to return to the island for a long time. I took my family, first we flew into Darwin where we stayed, and the planes took us out just for the day.
I had mixed feelings and reminded myself not to romaticise about what we had experienced as children, things would be different now. Spending a few years just being a child was a good way to experience the true essence of the culture of the island. My memories are of playing, freedom and going out on trips around the island to gather, see and just be. The traditional culture and law that remains in tact, was part of our every day lives. From the stories and games to the sacred places, and when there was trouble, if it was big trouble there would be a pay back, on occasion this was settled with a spear through the leg.
It’s hard to just abbreviate all the things that I experienced during this recent trip. Once we got to the island there was a re-enactment of the arrival of Watson at the point called Watson’s Tree (which has long since been washed away). Seeing the old missionary men greeting each other was very moving, a lot of the people were from our childhood, we spent most of our school years in the Northern Territory as did a lot of the church people there. There were also a lot of people missing, which was one of the really sad parts of the day.
Then the locals put on a ceremony and singing, at the beginning when they were doing the smoking, one of my children turned to me and asked why are the old people crying, tears rolled down my own cheeks then, as they do now. There was a lot of good things we experienced that day, and I was so appreciative to be invited to be a part of it.
Learning from Plants
Part of the excitement of going back to the top end was I could learn some of the plants in that area, I snuck a dye pot and a heap of fabric swatches into my suitcase. When we finally got out of Darwin and were in bush I felt completely lost. There were very few plants I could ID and to begin from scratch was pretty humbling, I tried to just pick one plant as my starting point, but it had already chosen me. The Kapok was in full bloom, and a friend had tagged me on facebook to say she had some and showed me what it looked like. This is the plant I want to go back to do more work with, I was also super lucky to find a Kapok Bark Bag in one of the galleries.
Other Interesting Things in Darwin
Winsome Jobling Exhibition
One of my favourite works from this exhbition that was on at MAGNT