Paper cuts: Saving Kangaroo Island

My latest rant, Paper cuts: Saving Kangaroo Island from tiny steps towards destruction, has been published on Adelaide’s Independent news site InDaily

Enjoy!

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Three Capes Track

Breathe in blanket bush interrupted only by vertical columns of rock rising 100s of metres from the sea. Enjoy ranger hospitality at overnight huts – dormitory accommodation with cooking and dining facilities – and the company of friends, and new friends. Congratulate yourself for completing 48 km with a 12 kg pack on your back, and a new level of fitness.

This is mid-range hiking. Its not the really tough stuff, carrying your tent and enough water for 4 days. It’s doable for the reasonably fit, and the bed and kitchen at the end of and start of each day keep you on track.

We carried our necessities: daily water, sleeping bag, food (mostly dried), runcible spoon, cup and plate/bowl, change of clothes, phone/camera, binoculars, first aid kit and minimal toiletries.

The huts supplied beds, cooking necessities, water for topping up, a dribble of water for bodily cleaning and teeth brushing (it’s all you need to get the job done), a superbly presented and informative booklet, enough solar capture to light the communal areas and charge phones but the bunkroom and toilets require personal illumination, and gas and water for cooking those delicious freeze dried food packs (one of the joys of the trips were the all-important brand comparisons).

Each day, up to 48 people leave Port Arthur on the boat cruise that starts day 1. Our tour had the maximum and we were a varied lot. We were fittish but few were sleek and buffed. Many were professionals – doctors, nurses, lawyers, corporate employees, self-employed and retirees. There were a few European tourists,  but the middle aged (and older) out numbered the young. The track is designed to build up capacity to the next day – from 2 hours on the first day to 7 or so hours (and a couple of thousand steps) on the last.

The obvious question for this Kangaroo Islander is – why is this level of very keen and numerous walker not being catered for in the plans of the SA Department of Environment and Water for the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail?

SA DEW says that they don’t run commercial operations well but the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service shows that a government department can do it, and do it very well. Have a look at their website and tell me if you think I’m wrong.

Why are we bringing in private enterprise to run an exclusive show for the wealthy, when if those people paid the appropriate taxes, environment departments would be able to afford to, umm, look after the environment.

And, I’m sorry. I just don’t buy the argument that if wealthy people are given a fully serviced, comfortable tour of wild places they will suddenly become environmental evangelists with commensurate financial input. Give me a break.

Those who value the environment for itself and understand its fundamental importance to human survival on this earth are finding wild places are being ‘opened up’ across Australia and elsewhere.

If you’d like to help us push the South Australia Government to show cause that what they are doing is legal (not to mention remotely sensible), then please contribute to our crowdfunding campaign and tell your friends as well. The planet and its (few) remaining wild places will thank you.

All the penguins for Christmas

It may well be true that every child loves penguins. Now your child can enjoy all the world’s penguins on one poster fit for their bedroom wall.

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Drawn and painted by award-winning wildlife artist, Nicholas Burness Pike, and printed in high-definition on quality paper, this 130 x 32 cm poster is available for just AU$15 plus postage.

Order at penneshawpenguincentre.com/contact/ now for delivery before Christmas

 

Is it all over?

Monday 6 August the pit was opened 24 hours after it was set alight and it worked!

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This is my last creative observation for the camp and a most satisfactory way to leave Coward Springs. I leave soon after, but some of the artists stay for another day (the gale forecast for Backstairs Passage means that Tuesday is not the day to be ferrying home).

I head off to two places I visited about 12 years ago, when I was fortunate to participate in a regional tour to the Flinders Ranges. Back then the state government organised trips by regional people to other regions so they could learn from them about business, community and tourism possibilities. It was a very rewarding experience and many ideas have stayed with me.

The first place I revisited was Old Beltana, a State Heritage town. On the regional trip we’d met young people who had a vision of rebuilding the town, which was almost empty. Now the permanent population is 35, and about 20 houses are inhabited – some are new but most have been restored. It was fantastic to see.

The other was Blinman, a most picturesque town. I stayed at the North Blinman Hotel, an extremely hospitable establishment. And dinner, of meatloaf and mash, was just the ticket.

What a beautiful experience the camp has been. It might seem that all the artists on Kangaroo Island would know each other well but it’s a big island and we are widespread, and all with our own lives to be getting on with. How fortunate we are to have this time to spend getting to know one another and one another’s art practice. It’s a shame more artists couldn’t be squeezed in.

Prue and Greg were the perfect hosts at Coward Springs Campground – so generous, so accommodating, so helpful. It’s been inspiring to be around two people who have transformed a desert ruin into a campground with character, and everything you could want for a stay-over. Thank you so much for everything.

And for anyone heading out on the Oodnadatta Track, call in and stay a night or two. And enjoy.

Island to Outback is supported by the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund through Country Arts SA

 

 

Firing up

Me: Deb and Kenita just drove out. Where would they be going?

Janine: They’ve gone to get cow shit.

Of course.

There’s a reason. Some of the pots that everyone has been diligently crafting for the past few days are ready to be pit fired. It’s a test, to see how they turn out, and the work that is not dry enough now will be fired later back on Kangaroo Island.

Deb says that pit firing is common in Central America, where she lived for quite some time and in India and Indonesia.

Deb and Kenita line the pit with cow dung and then place the pots on top. Deb adds in salt from Lake Eyre in one section, salt from around Coward Springs in another and some pots do not have any salt near them. One pot gets a dollop of salt inside. Maybe they will have different looks.

She makes a dome of cow dung around and over the pots. The largest pat makes the lid.

Then wood over the top of the dung and set it alight. Cow dung burns hot and long and so is perfect for a natural firing, when there’s no kiln.

Deb estimates it will burn for about 4 hours and be cool enough in 24 hours to see the results.

In the meantime Ria and Prue are down in the wetland by dawn. Prue records the bird sounds while they paint in silence.

Ria is a model of devotion to improving her practice. She draws and paints at every opportunity, even under the duress of the conditions – the short time we have here and the incessant wind, the flies, not to mention the unfamiliar living conditions. In the afternoon she works on in her room away from the wind and flies.

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Ria says she is here to paint and learn. ‘I want to be able to apply a colour once and it be the right one to capture what I am seeing.’

She looks to Nick’s technical skill which she says shows the hours and hours he has spent practising. ‘He knows exactly what the colour to use, and he has fine drafting skill.

But all is not rosy with Nick. His bad back has limited his painting output on this trip but is pleased he has captured many birds with his camera. He has two paintings on the go, one of the wetlands and one of the Coward Springs museum but that second one he is not happy with. He will start again.

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Island to Outback is supported by the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund through Country Arts SA

 

 

 

 

Capturing the spirit

Like the artists on the Island to Outback camp, Dave and Ruth are brimful of ideas for the type of film they can make to portray the creative endeavour. Or will it be films plural?

Ruth says she first envisaged a documentary of the camp in a fairly straight way but what we are now thinking is a film of the art camp, and an installation.

David, the cameraman, is thinking the installation would be shown on 2 monitors, each with its own moving image – maybe one shot evolving slowly and the other in contrast constantly changing. Playing with the concept of time and space.

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Ruth incognito, Dave on camera and Gethin getting down to capture the sound

As far as the documentary is concerned, he can see a Kangaroo Island environment set against the Coward Springs environment, using the artists as a vehicle for that. He intends to follow them up back on the island.

They are following a documentary narrative, keeping it as free as they can but they do need structure. The artists are insisting on being their own person in their own creative way. Ruth and Dave say that they do like that much of the time the artists wander off on their own even though it is hard to film them without being intrusive.

They know that they have to be ready for whatever is happening. ‘You roll the camera and then you find out what is going on,’ Dave says.

One artist goes to the same place every day; one constantly wanders to different places, for example to collect. One stands by their easel barely moving for hours; one flits from one thing to another, never working on one thing for too long. Some are natural in front of the camera; others aren’t.

Ruth, whose background is in costume design, says that on a film set she adheres to a strict schedule. Here, no one is in charge and the schedule is non-existent.

What they have seen is artists having a go at practices or media that they have never considered before and finding a way that they can make it their own.

Dave acknowledges what a blessing it has been to have Gethin bring his sound expertise to their filming.

I speak to them both during a break in reviewing the 9 hours of footage they have already shot. They are assessing what they have and what is missing. Dave thinks that they might capture at least another 2 hours and they might end up with up to 15 hours – which will have to be brought down to about 25 to 30 minutes.

Island to Outback is supported by the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund through Country Arts SA

 

 

 

Hunkering down

After a ferocious night and the wind still howling, we hunker down, mostly on the front veranda of the Coward Springs residence once the Station Master’s House when the Ghan passed this way. The sun shines on us and we are out of the wind.

Janine continues with her daily diary – a timeline of the camp in found objects, natural and made. ‘Things I see in the course of the day – linear things.’ The long strip of jute is reminiscent of the long horizon or the old railway track.

“It was a pre-planned exercise because I wanted to make something that was durable and transportable.’ But the value of the group dynamic revealed itself on the first day when Kenita suggested hat she pull jute threads from the strap to sew on the objects.

‘I choose things that appeal when I pick them up but I lay them out for contrast in colour and material.’

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The artists on the veranda seem to have a plant focus, perhaps concentrating on the small things to block out the larger all consuming wind.

Maggie is focused on space and her place in it. She first visited the wetlands but could not find space there. She certainly found it at Lake Eyre and is contemplating how to convey the scale – on the edge the enormous cracked plates and the corrugations, the expanse of blindingly white salt. Perhaps a vertical Japanese paper series. ‘With the vertical you feel like you go a long way. But with the horizontal …’ She and Deb discuss the possibilities and rummage through their sketchbooks. Deb is thinking about corrugated iron.

Whatever Maggie and Deb, realise, I have no doubt it will be evocative of the space we are all in for this short time. Each in her own way.

The day ends with a group meeting. Do we want an exhibition to come out of this camp? Yes we do.

 

Island to Outback is supported by the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund through Country Arts SA