Mud Maps

By Fredericks, Bronwyn | Women & Environments International Magazine, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Mud Maps


Fredericks, Bronwyn, Women & Environments International Magazine


Artwork of an Aboriginal Australian Woman Inspires Action on Climate Change

Introduction

Dr Pamela Croft is an artist and member of the Kooma clan of the Uralarai people in South West Queensland, Australia. In the interview that follows, she discusses her perspective as an Australian Aboriginal woman and how her land-centred artwork inspires action around climate and other environmental changes.

Residing Within Country

To many Aboriginal Australians, Country means place of origin in spiritual, cultural and literal terms. It refers to a specific clan or a tribal group or nation of Aboriginal people and encompasses all the knowledge, cultural norms, values, stories and resources within that area. The notion of Country is central to Australian Aboriginal identity and history, and contributes to overall health and wellbeing. Women and men both have a central role within Country, in terms of ownership, care and rights. The increasing shift of Aboriginal people to urban or other areas does not mean that one's connections to Country are lost, or that the significance of Country is no longer present. Instead it means that many Aboriginal Australians now pass through, dwell in, and live within the Country belonging to other Aboriginal Australians. It has been estimated that Aboriginal Australians have lived on the Australian continent for over 100,000 years. As a result we have a long history of relationships connected to Country: Australia's landscapes and seascapes and all the animals and plants and peoples that inhabit them.

Dr Pamela Croft names her Country as that of the Kooma clan of the Uralarai people in South West Queensland. She lives in Keppel Sands on the Capricorn Coast in Central Queensland within the Countries of the Darumbal (mainland and coastline) and the Woppaburra (Keppel Islands), areas that are intricately linked through history and relationship to each other. This region is at the southern end of one of the world's greatest wonders and World Heritage Site, the Great Barrier Reef. Throughout broader Australia, the region is marketed as the 'Beef Capital of Australia' and where 'the beef meets the reef.' Croft has practised as a visual artist since the mid-1980s and uses both Aboriginal Australian and Western techniques, education and style to tell stories about identity, sense of place, and the effects of colonization. She was the first Aboriginal Australian to earn a Doctor of Visual Arts.

Mapping Darumbal Country

In her artwork, Dr Croft focuses on concepts of place, space and change within Country. She undertook a recent series of artwork on the muddy banks of the upper regions of Pumpkin Creek at Keppel Sands. Pamela is familiar with how the moon and the sun impact the tidal flows and how the time of year affects the temperature of the water. She has traced the tracks of animals and other people who at times dwell within the area. She has watched, observed, hunted and gathered in ways of Aboriginal women, past, present and future.

In the Creek, Pamela used special paper to capture the gentle nomadic nature of the tides, which result in delicate patterns left on the mud that change with each ebb and flow of the water. The crabs imprinted their presence as they foraged for food, so too did the ibis and seagulls. This evidence of water and animals became stories, recorded in the mud like texts that have been imprinted within the artwork. Croft later used the paper as canvases for her artwork and added local ochres - black, brown and red to symbolise the water's connection to land, people, place, and a sense of past, present and future. The colours and Unes flow within the artwork just like the contours of the Creek. They are tied within the artwork to a sense of Country that binds water, land, animals and us as human beings. Over time, the changes in Country became mapped in Croft's "Mud Map" and other artwork.

Interview with Dr Pamela Croft

I interviewed Dr Croft in her studio at Keppel Sands in January 2006 to talk about her artwork and her messages about climate change in Country. …

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