The next community that enchanted me was Warumpi (Papunya), where I was excited to see street signs that bore the names of some of my favourite artists, such as Tim Leura, who I knew as a child. When my great uncle Peter was working as a teacher in Warumpi, fellow art teacher Geoff Barden, with the help of an amazing man named Kaapa, was helping the local Aboriginal men transfer their traditional sand paintings on to board and canvas. This was the beginning of the Western Desert Aboriginal art movement.
Exhausted from trying to rally government support for the Aboriginal artists, Geoff had a health breakdown, and for a few years Peter stepped into his wake and held everything together for him. Peter often purchased paintings to support the Aboriginal artists, and was given many paintings as gifts. Eventually Peter’s own health broke down from the stress, which may have been a blessing in disguise because the end of his teaching career led to a new beginning in botany. When Peter’s art collection was purchased by the National Gallery of Australia, he returned a lot of the money he received to the original artists and created a trust fund from which artists’ families are regularly paid royalties.
I love Aboriginal art because it has a strong connection to the land and it uses story-telling to teach people. I grew up with dot paintings, which depict the land from above, like a map. These paintings often make me feel like I’m having an out- of-body experience when I look at them. When I was a teenager, my favourite story was about the seven sisters, a star constellation.
After we left Warumpi, we came across a glorious grove of honey grevilleas in flower. The spirit energy of this flower wrapped around me, squeezing all the excess air out of my aura. Then it released me, fluffing and plumping my aura, as though encouraging me to relax.
You belong. It is safe to relax and expand. There is plenty of room for you. Don’t cramp yourself up because you are afraid you are taking up room that does not belong to you. Spread out! Take up room! You have a right to be here!
Grevillea stroked all my auric fibers until I completely relaxed, my aura opening like a flower.
I will help you connect with your community and feel more a part of it, on your own terms. You do not need to bend yourself into strange shapes in order to fit in and belong. Just relax and be yourself. There is plenty of room to move. Don’t squeeze yourself into little holes. Spread out!
I felt as if I were floating in a pool of water, my buoyant auric fibres spreading out around me. Grevillea told me what I needed to do to nourish my soul, encouraging me to take care of myself and put my foot down where needed.
Stand up and be counted. We will back you up. Your community will hear you. You are supported. Be at peace.