This body of work was born from a feeling of homesickness. Living in the remote West Kimberley and returning home to New Zealand once a year means I move between two very different worlds, and neither really understands the other. I grew up in a valley in New Zealand where the sky was long and narrow, and although traveling extensively, it was not until living in the flat savannah surrounding Derby that the absence of hills and mountains became noticeable and overwhelming. For the first time, I realised the comfort those mountainous land formations created.
The Kimberley is saturated in sunlight for most of the year. At times the sun and heat feel unrelenting and I long for winter. I began to have a recurring daydream of standing under mountains in the deep south of New Zealand. It was a subconscious retreat to a place I know. The Deep South, southern end of New Zealand, is where my family settled in the mid 1800s and where many of New Zealand’s renowned artists and writers have drawn inspiration from the lands gothic noir undertones.
Natural pigments became an interest of mine while working for Mowanjum Aboriginal Art & Culture Centre, where ochre colour charts hang from the studio walls. Over the years I have harvested ochre with Ngarinyin people on Wilinggin Country and together we produced a short documentary called Ornmol (Ochre) that explored the cultural meanings, associated language and uses of ochre. Across the world, ochre has many uses including decorative, medicinal and ceremonial. Within the Kimberley, ochre is harvested and deeply symbolic and the colours are different to New Zealand Kokowai (ochre). Initially, I referenced ochre within my artwork as a way to compare my two homes, to visually translate a feeling of belonging and nostalgia for each place and to reference the patient teachers and elders who have shared their culture and stories with me. Permission to integrate and reference ochre in my artwork has been given by Ngarinyin and Worrorra elders and artists.
In the book Dirt Music, author Tim Winton wrote about the red earth staining the skin and soul and this metaphor resonated with me. I feel a constant push and pull between the two places I call home. Through photography, I am not interested in recording what is visible; instead I want to recreate what I feel.
Flight Path tracks the routes I regularly travel between New Zealand and the Kimberley across two 8x10 inch tintypes. As my work and home life is very transient, I found mapping the paths I repeatedly travel between my two homes somewhat therapeutic. The photographic images reflect the mountains found in the deep south of New Zealand.
This exhibition presents the Worrorra stone tools collected by Kimberley bushman Vic Cox and questions the removal of stone tools from the landscape.
In 2015 I moved onto a ten-acre bush block in the Kimberley the deceased estate of Vic Cox, a well-known bushman, and crocodile hunter. Vic was a scavenger, and his property contained collections of found and traded objects from the Kimberley coast. Among the collections, we found buckets containing stone tools some marked with a location and date linking the tools to the Worrorra language group.
The collection contains a selection of handmade tools designed for living off the land, cores for creating smaller flakes and unfinished pieces. The entire collection has been checked for cultural restrictions and deemed safe for display by senior members of the Worrorra language group Nyorna (Donny) Woolagoodja, Janet Oobagooma, members of Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre and Whadjuk, Noongar elder Barry McGuire for the Fremantle Safe Keeping exhibition.
It was through conversations with respected Worrorra cultural advisors, artists, remote community archive networks across the top end of Australia, geologists and anthropologists working in the Kimberley, that I became aware of the cultural and environmental concerns relating to the removal of significant objects from custodial lands. As tourism and mining industries are accessing Australia's most remote and significant sites, how do custodians protect their cultural heritage?
Vic Cox loved the Kimberley coast and had respect for Worrorra Country and friendships with Worrorra people. Vic's story is his own and these tools whether found, traded or gifted came to live on his bush block, discovered and returned and will now be on display in the Mowanjum Museum.
" These were collected by Vic Cox throughout his time spent exploring the coastline of the west Kimberley. Many of these tools were identified by place names that were familiar to Breckon and she knew that these were objects of significance; objects that had been collected and relocated. They had been taken from their homes, from their keeping places."