Always more than a vocal program, collaborating with visual artists and designers has been a hallmark of Moorambilla Voices.
For the past ten years artists have included lantern maker Bec Massey, designer Fiona Fagan, felter and chook pen creator Anne Nixon and Wailwan Ngemba artists Mary Kennedy and Barbara Stanley. This year, Moorambilla is proud to collaborate for the third year with Walgett artist Frank Wright and for the second time in the past ten years, Jyllie Jackson, Artistic Director LightenUp, working with artist Sara Tinning.
All Moorambilla artists work openly on site in Baradine, a deliberate strategy employed by Artistic Director Michelle Leonard to expose the children to both the artform, skill and craftsmanship of the artists, and to develop the themes.
“At the same time, creating on site also gives the visual artists the space to absorb the development of the theme as it takes shape musically around them,” she says.
Frank Wright works on a huge canvas backdrop on the floor in Baradine Community Hall with rehearsals constantly going on around him.
He paints repeated continuous lines with a limited palette, reflecting the layers that build up around the Narran Lakes. “One line is the water, another the edge of the lake, another the muddy area,” he explains. “Then there is the area where the salt has formed from within the land itself and then there are the middens at the edge, where everyone sat and ate together.”
The backdrop depicts two crocodiles in the Narran Lakes creation story. “I knew I had to put movement in this backdrop, as it was the chase that created the lakes themselves. I wanted the crocodile to actually twist his head and turn – so you could see he was being attacked or was putting up a fight with somebody.”
On black unprimed canvas, Frank chooses a palette of white, a range of greens and a yellow ochre. “The white shows you the dance of the animal,” he explains, “the green is the slime. White and yellow ochre on black are also traditional indigenous colours.
“I’m hoping that people will feel the sacred story behind this,” he says. “These stories have been around along time. Painting this backdrop is one of the things that I can do to try and keep our culture alive.”
Frank Wright is a proud descendant of the Gamilaroi people and was born 1979 at Walgett – where the two rivers, the Namoi and Barwon, meet. “My totem is Dhinawan (emu), which I have a strong connection with, and it features prominently in my artworks along with many air, land and water animals of the Gamilaroi area. I paint the animals of our land because they are necessary for our people to survive. I also paint the river and water systems as I remember them from when I was a child, sometimes in flood but mostly dry riverbanks.”
Text and photography: Lliane Clarke