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‘Kintyre’ - protest painting at Tracks We Share

Submitted by author on Thu, 04/14/2022 - 12:33
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“They were mining uranium. It might get into the waterways. The wind might carry the uranium to Parnngurr, where we live, and mix with the water. So we painted this protest painting.”

- Desmond Taylor

 

One of central works of the Tracks We Share exhibition is ‘Kintyre’, a 3 x 5 metre collaborative canvas that was painted by 23 Martumili Artists, ‘young and old, working together’ (Judith Samson). Kintyre is a claypan located just beyond the northern boundary of the Karlamilyi (Rudall River) region. During the pujiman (traditional, desert dwelling) era, the site was a popular camping ground. Today Kintyre is best known for its substantial uranium deposits, and the area has been developed for mining. Ongoing protest from Kintyre’s traditional land owners[1] and unfavourable market conditions have resulted in the Chemico project being put on hold for the time being, but the prospect of future uranium mining looms. While the ‘Kintyre’ painting inherently reveals the artists’ ancestral connection to the land and its surrounds, its creation expressively represents the most recent incarnation of this enduring struggle.[2]

 

In a harmonious melding of artistic styles, the vibrant work depicts the region’s geographical formations from an aerial perspective; “the hills and the waterholes… the claypans and the road [that] goes from the North to the South” (Desmond Taylor). The painting also records the lands’ intrinsic Jukurrpa narratives, causal to this same topography. As Curtis Taylor states, “Karlamilyi river is a very important place, not just for the Warnman people, but whole of the Western Desert people. This is where a lot of Jukurrpa (Dreaming) runs through… the stories and the songs that the ancestral heroes put down, mainly the Wati Kujarra (Two Goanna Men)... From the start there shouldn’t have been a mining project there, because there’s a lot of Jukurrpa there in that site, and we don’t want that to be disturbed in any way.”

 

Similar to the way that Kintyre was painted with singular intent, the works’ execution followed a deliberate and considered approach. The painting was begun on Country in 2020 at Karlamilyi, and led by Warnman elders. “We went out to Kintyre, we went out there and looked around for ideas about the rocks, claypans. It’s a rocky country you know, tuwa (sandhill) country. Had a look how the Country is and then went back and started painting on it. So we had the two elders sit down and we started drawing on a piece of paper. Then the elders told us this where this goes, and that goes there.” (Corban Clause Williams)

 

The artists’ and community residents opposition to uranium mining at Kintyre is multilayered. Environmental concerns relate to the depletion of ground water tables through the consumption of massive quantities of water[3] in a sensitive arid region, in addition to the potential for radioactive tailings waste to contaminate local water bodies. At its fundamental core, however, the painting is a bold assertion of Warnman, and more generally Martu land rights, to make sure that we have a say in our own warrarn (Country), in our own homeland, our state. This country is right in the heart of Martu determination area, and it is exempt from our native title rights… We want for non-Martu people to see it and learn about our fight, our story, about this country.” (Curtis Taylor)

 

[1] Warnman people are the traditional land owners for Kintyre. Warnman is one of the five language groups that comprise the larger ‘Martu’ group, with the remaining groups being Manyjilyjarra, Kartujarra, Putijarra and Martu Wangka.

 

[2] In 2016 residents of Parnngurr community and other Martu communities embarked on a 110km walk in protest to the Kintyre uranium mine. In 2014 nine artists from Parnngurr community collaborated to paint ‘Kalyu’, also created with the intent to voice their opposition to the mine.

 

Article Author
Ruth Leigh
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