Monday, December 17, 2007

Conviction or doubt

Dinner is interrupted by an artist and her family asking for red paint….it is 8.00pm

My thoughts are inconsistent, switching from conviction to doubt. My mood swings verge on depression to coping as usual. Before I left for Melbourne last week I was rudely wakened from my premise that I/we had actually changed attitudes, beliefs and behaviour. I should have known better. No matter how much rhetoric, governance training the artists and I have exchanged/experienced on the importance of supporting the art centre, the opportunistic nature of the artists in Papunya can’t but suppress any loyalties to Papunya Tjupi. I saw two artists using the paint provided by the art centre on private canvases. One canvas wasn’t returned, only the stretcher or frame it had been stapled onto. The usual excuses to save face, little did they know how disappointed I was from my face.

My friend reminded me of the realities of the Aboriginal art industry. I remind myself there is no point trying to reinvent the past, rather create a new art movement driven by people living in the now, who want to paint for pleasure, fain off boredom and earn money. The ties to country and places are still strong, however the strength and depth of the tjukurrpa or creation stories is diminishing. There are people at each end of the industry spectrum who have placed much hope on my ability to make this art centre a success. I place undue pressure on myself not to disappoint them.

I am studying a Graduate Certificate in Indigenous Arts Management as a full paying student. I have had to travel from Alice Springs and Yulara to Melbourne three times over the past six months for a week’s block of intensive study. In my opinion, the level of academic instruction has been condescending, lowered by tokenism. There has been a breach of contract. We were informed our final study block would be in late January, and graduation in May. It was not up for discussion when we were informed it was moved to July with graduation in 2009. Frustrations all round. Complaints are to be written.

Today was another exhausting eight hours with around 30 artists wanting their last canvas before we close for the festive season on Friday. I cannot physically service so many people without adequate facilities and IT support. I dream of operating out of an art centre with computer software to reduce the manual entries. No longer would the artists be painting from home, rather together in the art centre where I can assist with painting techniques, reduce abuse of materials and where the whitefella staff at Papunya patronised the art centre instead of buying poor quality private paintings.

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