Flow of Voices is a unique two-art exhibition on contemporary art, post-colonial relations and mining in Australia's remote Gulf Country.
In Flow of Voices I, Jacky Green maps the changes from ‘Good to Bad’ caused when an underground mine expands to open cut and a major river is diverted (2007); a second expansion is approved in 2011, once again against the wishes of the owners, Northern Land Council, environmental authorities and the justice system. Despite the national controversy, six resource companies are active including the huge and controversial MRM mine owned by GlencoreXtrata. Green's paintings are accompanied by his careful words as told to anthropologist Seán Kerins. (12 April to 12 May 2014.)
In Flow of Voices II, artists Jacky Green, Stewart Hoosan and Nancy McDinny present the other side of the frontier days myth. They paint the brave but unequal resistance to armed prospectors and pastoralists. In this unrecognised frontier war about 600 men, women and children (one-sixth of the population) lost their lives in lawless massacres and violence. They argue that unless mining companies conduct proper consultation, environmental monitoring, restoration and community benefit in exchange for resource extraction, then the colonial occupation continues. (22 May to 28 June 2014.) http://crossart.com.au/archive/97-2014-exhibitions-projects/258-jacky-green-stewart-hoosan-and-nancy-mcdinny-flow-of-voices-2
The artists and Waralungku Arts introduce their plan to set up a Yanyuwa, Garawa, Marra and Gudanji People's Keeping Place and Knowledge Centre at Borroloola.
Jacky Green: Nothing has really changed since whitefellas came into our country. First time it was horses and now its bulldozers.
Jacky Green, Flow of Voices
The Flow of Voices concept is by Jacky Green, a Garawa man from the remote south-west Gulf Country in the Northern Territory (NT) who has spent a lifetime as a cultural authority caring for, measuring, dreaming about and raising his voice in support of his country. Flow of Voices refers to the landscape and songs of the mighty McArthur River system and to the voices of the traditional owners. This is one of the largest river systems in northern Australia, running for 300 kilometres through the tiny township of Borroloola and into the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Jacky Green's passionate and analytical paintings document conceptual issues about the poor and black being hammered by governments and mining corporations shrugging off responsibility for contamination, cultural destruction and cultural and economic endowment (rent for land). He shows what happens when the voices and authority of traditional owners (Minggirringi) and managers (Junggayi) who manage and maintain the lands travelled by ancestral beings creating and singing the kujka (song-lines) and the environment, are not heard. His paintings are conceptual, generating multiple narrative frames by formal devices such as split screen, overlay, colour and by combining the timeless and temporal.
Jacky Green says: 'Aboriginal people where we should be — at the top of things. This is our country'. Yet, the government listens only to the mining companies, not to the the Gurdanji, Yanyuwa, Garawa and Mara, the four clans of this region, and their representative, the Northern Land Council. Like the colourful and renowned works of Nancy McDinny, Stuart Hoosan and the late Ginger Riley (from Ngukkur), Green's image-based paintings document 'frontier relations' including the colonial killings and massacres and resistance fighters. The old people who set up the art centre wanted to show the continuum of these unequal relations.
Jacky Green, Heart of Country, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 84 x 66 cm. Collection Australian National University.
Jacky Green was taught the business of law by his grandfathers, father, uncles and other senior kin. He paints Good Government (knowledge of ceremonies, hunting, fishing and gathering and travelling through country) juxtaposed with the effects and impacts of Bad Government decisions (environmental degradation, desecration of sacred sites and ceremony grounds, grog running). In his history paintings, bulldozers and drilling continue to tear up hunting and ceremonial grounds, while roads vie with song-line journey paths.
Many of the sacred sites across the Gulf Country have been destroyed. Meanwhile, the grog truck's regular visits cause growing problems for a depressed and isolated community. His works show important landmarks, custodians and ceremonies and the damage — under the watchful gaze of the creators. Jacky Green's works can be seen as a global moral allegory like Ambrogio Lorenzetti's famed murals Allegory of Good and Bad Government (painted 1338-1339 in the Town Hall of Sienna, Italy).
|Jacky Green, Ceremony Ground, 2012. Acrylic on canvas, 51 cm x 51 cm
||Jacky Green, Four Clans, 2012. Acrylic on canvas 56 cm x 46 cm.
|Jacky Green, Emu Journey, 2012. Acrylic on linen 56 cm x 51 cm. Private collection.
|Jacky Green, The Land is Our Life, 2013 Acrylic on linen., 84 x 1.5 cm
||Jacky Green, Same Story, settlers—miners, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 84 x 66 cm
||Jacky Green, Two Sides of the Story, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 51 x 72 cm|
Yet, despite overwhelming environmental cautions and with scant consultation, in 2011 the Northern Territory Government approved a second stage expansion of MRM mine with little reparation and even less monitoring. There are six parts to the proposed expansion — so the impact will continue to worsen. The mine's remoteness and the cost of access keeps media and other monitors away. Ironically, the deposit was first named 'Here's Your Chance'. This exhibition has an overwhelming emotional resonance and stark intellectual intensity.
Jacky Green says: 'No one is listening to us. What we want. How we want to live. What we want in the future for our children. It’s for these reasons that I started to paint. I want government to listen to Aboriginal people. I want people in the cities to know what’s happening to us and our country. There’s a lot of mining going on in our country. The mining companies are coming into our country and they aren’t talking with us properly. They seem to just want us to agree to things their way. ... It’s always about someone else’s plan for our country and not our own plans.
I want the government and mining companies to know that we are still here. We aren’t going anywhere. We aren’t dead yet. We are still here, feeling the country'.
|Jacky Green, Flow of Voices, 2013 Acrylic on linen, 108 x 75 cm. Private collection||Jacky Green, Landscape with McArthur River Mine, 2011 Acrylic on canvas 76 cm x 117 cm. Private collection.||Jacky Green, Redbank Mine, 2012. Acrylic on linen, 120 x 87.5 cm
|Jacky Green, Map of Borroloola - our land and things over the top of it, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 122 x 84 cm. Collection Australian War Memorial.||Jacky Green, Good to Bad, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 122 x 84 cm. Collection Australian War Memorial.||Jacky Green, Fly In and Fuck Off, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 122 x 84 cm. Collection Australian War Memorial.|
|Jacky Green, Landscape with MRM (2011) and Redbank Mine, (2012). Installation view, 2014.
||Jacky Green, Borroloola Town (2013) and Fly in and Fuck Off (2013). Installation view, 2014.||Jacky Green, Installation view, 2014|
Jacky Green, Expansion of Open Cut Mining at McArthur River Mine — before with dreaming or Kudjika and ceremony grounds; MRM Mine phase 2 and MRM Mine phase 1. Triptych.
The Mining Controversy
Jacky Green's paintings set out the two laws operating to suppress Indigenous rights and interests; despite the victorious overturning of the concept of terra nullius by the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act (1976) and the win in 1977 by the Yanyuwa people in the Borroloola Land Claim under the new act, the community and its artists continue to struggle for justice in a grotesquely disproportionate struggle with big mining, political influence and economic determinism.
The controversy about mining in the Gulf exploded nationally in late 2006, when McArthur River Mine (MRM, owned by Swiss-based GlencoreXstrata) was approved to expand from an underground to an open-cut operation. The approval allowed for the diversion of the river for six kilometres to enable the mining of zinc and lead deposits directly under the riverbed. The NT Parliament overruled the NT Supreme Court and ticked off on the diversion of a major tropical river six kilometres from its course. Political approval ignored reports about leaking and seepage into water systems, risk to birds and marine life. Overshadowing operations is the instability of the major structures such as diversion channel, flood bunds and waste dump.
McArthur River Mine has had devastating consequences on a community and its environment. In 2003, on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s 'Stateline' TV program, traditional owner Harry Lansen was asked questions about the expansion of the McArthur River Mine that is situated on Gudanji ancestral country in the southwest Gulf.
Harry Lansen said: ‘If they're going to make it a big river down there, big dam, they're going to kill me, my spirits still there you know, my song and my spirit … I'll be sick if they cut the place, you know because my spirits there, all my songs for crossing the river’.
(Stateline Northern Territory, ABC, 7 March 2003, <http://www.abc.net.au/stateline/nt/content/2003/s799861.htm>)
In 2011 Harry Lansen said:
‘I come from McArthur River Mine. That’s why I been born there. That’s my land, and my country all around there. Then this mine come along and take over the place. They didn’t see us the traditional owner. They never come tell us, they just go ahead with the mine. Digging that hole there … That’s my country. I been born there, bred and born there. I been worked on the station there when I was sixteen … When that happen [the conversion from an underground mine to an open-cut mine] it mucked me up and make it no good, you know, get sick … They diggin’ that hole, one of my heart been there and it's no good. It’s like some other traditional owners been dead there … That’s my father’s land. That my family land. That my hunting land, you know, we all been together, like a ceremony site, you know. ... That mine been affecting me and all my family and all my kids. All them kids look smaller now. They not like ceremony people, we just only nothing, because of the mine. It takes the life away from me. They take my land away … mining company just worried about this, money, money, money, all the time. I’m not worried about the money. I worried about the land what that land been do for me’. (Harry Lansen, Interview with Jessie Boylan. Three months later Harry Lansen passed away.)
in 2011 the Northern Territory Government approved a 'Stage 2' expansion with little reparation and even less monitoring. If unchecked, expansion will continue to a ‘Stage 6’. Many now view the blatant disregard to the owners and custodians by the Territory and Federal political process as one of the great 'bad management case studies' that is the equal of the controversial approvals of the pulpmill and old growth forest destruction in Tasmania and the dredging of the Great Barrier Reef to facilitate coal exports from the Galilee Basin in Queensland.
Flow of Voices Opening Talks by Jo Holder (intro), Jacky Green and Dr Seán Kerins, The Cross Art Projects, Sydney, 12 April 2014.
Digital video with sound. Camera and editors Sabina Kacha and Hans Mauve.
Jessie Boylan is a photomedia artist. Some of her video work is for her multimedia projects with the Mineral Policy Institute, looking at the impacts of mining on communities and the environment. Her superb interviews in the community (2011) identify determination, especially in the words of Jacky Green and Harry Lansen.
Jacky Green talking about McArthur River Mine, Borroloola, 2011, director Jessie Boylan. 4:44 mins.
Gina Fairley on Jacky Green's Flow of Voices for Arts Hub, week of 21 April 2014:
Download recent articles and publications
Jacky Green, ‘Flow of Voices’, Arena Magazine, 2012, No. 124. > Download pdf
Seán Kerins, 'Challenging Conspiracies of Silence with Art', Art Monthly, Summer 2013/14. > Download pdf
Jacky Green, Biography and Statement on Work, 2014. > Download pdf
Map: McArthur River system > Download pdf
Gina Fairley on Jacky Green's Flow of Voices for Arts Hub, week of 21 April 2014 > Download as pdf
Waralungku Arts: Contact Madeleine Challender, Art Centre Manager, 08 8975 8677 / 0427 758 677 or visit www.waralungku.com
25 Feb 2015 Jack Green, Beyond Dot Paintings, illustrated feature by Amy Quire, New Matilda on line. https://newmatilda.com/2015/02/25/beyond-dot-paintings
More information on Mining on Traditional Lands
Films: Two Laws, film made in 1981 (Directed by Carolyn Strachan/Alessandro Cavadini) is a history of the Borroloola Aboriginal Community and shows the start of mining on tribal land: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuUW-F8c4OY
Dirty Business: How Mining Made Australia, film directed by Jacob Hickey and Sara Tiefenbrun for Renegade Films. (Shown on SBS TV, 2014.)
Harry Lansen, 'Song for the Rainbow Serpent' at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgwaxalFs3g
Sacred Land Film Project: In August 2007 they travelled to the Supreme Court hearing on the legality of the McArthur River mine expansion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HonesSabEiE
ABC News, 'McArthur River mine's burning waste rock pile sparks health, environmental concerns among Gulf of Carpentaria Aboriginal groups' by Jane Bardon, 27 Jul 2014. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-27/mcarthur-river-mine-gulf-of-carpentaria-anger-smoke-plume/5625484 and http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-28/mine-anger/5630124
ABC News, 'McArthur River mine expansion plan approved by the Northern Territory Government', By Jano Gibson, 4 Jun 2013. The phase three development will more than double the amount of zinc and lead produced at the site, making it the largest zinc resource in the world. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-06-04/mcarthur-river-mine-expansion-plan-approved-phase-three/4732154
Jane Bardon, ‘Mining giant accused of "rude" behaviour’, 15 Mar 2011. Liz Trevaskis, ‘Environmental Concerns for McArthur River Mine’, ABC Rural, 7 Dec 2011.
Stage 1 Approvals process: ‘Xstrata will get approval for controversial McArthur River mine expansion’, International Business Times, 22 Jan 2009. Peter Ker, ‘Garrett backs controversial mine’, The Age, 23 Jan 2009. Independent Monitor, ‘McArthur River Mine Community Report’, Environmental Earth Sciences, 2011. Paddy Manning, ‘Xstrata digs deep for prized zinc deposits’, Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Aug 2012. Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) TV & Online: Melinda James, ‘McArthur River Mine’ (transcript), Stateline, 6 Oct 2006. Melinda James, ‘McArthur River Mine’ (transcript), Stateline, 4 May 2007. ABC Online News Reports (chronological): Emma Masters, ‘Damning report card for McArthur River Mine’, 12 Nov 2009.
Waralungku Arts, Borroloola (Madeleine Challender, Miriam Charlie and Peter Callinan); Jacky Green and family, Dr Seán Kerins, Jessie Boylan, Ceinwen Hall, Arena Magazine and for video work to Sabina Kacha and Hans Mauve of STICS Collective.
Co-produced by Waralungku Arts and The Cross Art Projects.