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Very Important For Us

Written by Gary Proctor, Director ( 2013-03-12 11:40:00 )

This feels like it's going to be a long post - over the last couple of days I have had some enjoyable discussions about creating programs for Ngaanyatjarra school children that use arts project facilities such as the art glass space and cultural assets such as the Warburton Collection and this website.

Right now, even with everything else going on - China tour, extensions to the TES gallery space and so on - it is hard for me to think of anything more I would prioritise than this.

I do strongly feel that creating new and positive personal experiences for all the kids in our communities, new concepts of "the things we do", is so important. Aboriginal people live in a world of great change that they did not ask for and the social and cultural pressures must be intense and often daunting. We really have to do our best here.

We have always run cultural programs that included young people, but in recent years we have looked at this as a specific concern. It has been great privelage working with Alex Robbins and Helen Stojan at Wanarn Campus, Ngaanyatjarra Schools, since 2010.

A key part of the Tu Di Shen Ti exhibition design were the 6127 photographs taken by all the students from Wanarn Campus in our project over 18 months leading up to the 2011 tour. Informing the extensive arts education over the years of Alex's principalship, the qualities Ng. school children at Wanarn brought to the installations truly enriched the whole exhibition and, over time, I came to see them as a key element that connected the whole space. We will be using them again in conjunction with the terrific video work we subsequently did at Wanarn, with videographer Naina Sen, Alex and Helen and the the children out of school hours in 2012. This has become a 34 minute installation synced across three screens. It is in post production at the moment and will be a very impressive part of the next China tour. Watch the 'schools' space on this website because we'll preview/post it here as a vimeo file shortly.

In late 2012 we worked with Wilbur Klien, an old friend out here since 1989 (yep, and we were way younger then ...), to bring six Ngaanyatjarra schools to visit the collection, get taste of making some art glass, and see the China Show for Ng. communities we currently present at TES in Warburton. Senior Warburton artist Lalla West explained the history and background to the Warburton Collection and this must have been the first time most of those kids had ever heard about it. Yet, with its data base, it will be a unique and extremely important cultural asset as our western central desert community goes forward into the future.

We hope that this new direction we are taking with Ngaanyatjarra Schools will develop all these wonderful possibilities in schools right across the lands, extending what we have done at Wanarn. That will depend a lot on whether individuals working on it understand that these cultural assets, that are already long in place, are part of the life of our community and have been for so many years. They are also of exceptional quality and stature, and loaded with the potential for enjoyable teachable moments. We have so many young people coming around to make glass on school days. I have to chase them away and tell them to go to school: here's some energy there...

Photos below of school children from six Ngaanyatjarra schools over three days at WAP in August 2012.