The Artists of Ampilatwatja: a film project / by Jess Booth

(L-R): Colleen Ngwarraye Morton, Rosie Ngwarraye Ross, Margaret Kemarre Ross and Beverly Pula Luck searching for bush medicine. Image courtesy  Lara Damiani .

(L-R): Colleen Ngwarraye Morton, Rosie Ngwarraye Ross, Margaret Kemarre Ross and Beverly Pula Luck searching for bush medicine. Image courtesy Lara Damiani.

Documentary film maker Lara Damiani of Think Films has made a name for herself capturing the stories of people and communities. Working with NGOs, international aid and humanitarian organisations, "and others with a passion for social development and social justice", Damiani's work often takes her to remote places. In 2010 Ampilatwatja became one of those places, when she embarked upon a journey to the Central Desert that has culminated in a series of short films about the artists of Artists of Ampilatwatja. We were excited to learn of Damiani's work with the artists, two of which - Colleen Ngwarraye Morton and Rosie Ngwarraye Ross - are behind our Ampilatwatja Collection of fabrics and wallpapers.

In 2010 Damiani made her first trip out to Ampilatwatja after learning about a 'walk-off' staged by residents of the community in response to the Northern Territory Government's intervention. After this introduction to Ampilatwatja, she discovered another event in that community's history - the 1949 'walk-off' in which Alyawarr elder Banjo Morton and a host of other Indigenous stockmen demanded fair wages in return for their labour at the Lake Nash Cattle Station. Drawn to this important but little known piece of post-colonial history, Damiani created 'Meet Banjo'

Through this work Damiani has come to know many of the women of Ampilatwatja. On her 2014 trip to the community she began filming artist Lily Kemarre Morton painting and telling the stories within her work. Damiani was inspired to obtain funding through the NT Government and returned in 2016 to begin filming the artists in earnest.

 

"Most of the artists paint Arreth, which translates to ‘strong bush medicine’, demonstrating a deep connection to country. For the Alyawarr people, their land has provided and sustained for generations. The paintings pay homage to the significance and use of traditional bush medicine, allowing an insight into their community."

Artists of Ampilatwatja

 

The photo essay below captures a trip Damiani took with the artists, in which she learned more about the various bush medicine plants and their uses.

Links to the seven wonderful films, with animation by Karu Karu Studio, can be found after these images. We would like to thank Lara for her generosity in supplying the imagery and background information for this piece.

Artist Colleen Ngwarraye Morton showing some traditional bush medicine. Image courtesy  Lara Damiani .

Artist Colleen Ngwarraye Morton showing some traditional bush medicine. Image courtesy Lara Damiani.

Filming artist Daisy Kemarre Moss telling the story of her painting, outside of Ampilatwatja. Image courtesy  Lara Damiani

Filming artist Daisy Kemarre Moss telling the story of her painting, outside of Ampilatwatja. Image courtesy Lara Damiani

Artist Kathleen Nanima Rambler showing a traditional comb - women used this to brush their hair. Image courtesy  Lara Damiani .

Artist Kathleen Nanima Rambler showing a traditional comb - women used this to brush their hair. Image courtesy Lara Damiani.

Artist Daisy Kemarre Moss with some traditional bush food / berries. Image courtesy  Lara Damiani

Artist Daisy Kemarre Moss with some traditional bush food / berries. Image courtesy Lara Damiani

Artists Margaret Kemarre Ross (left) and Beverly Pula Luck (right). Image courtesy  Lara Damiani .

Artists Margaret Kemarre Ross (left) and Beverly Pula Luck (right). Image courtesy Lara Damiani.

Damiani's film on Rosie Ngwarraye Ross, creator of Willie Weston's Sugarbag Dreaming design, is below: