Red Country, Jacky Green, 2017, 96 x 88cm, acrylic on canvas

The Open Cut exhibition featuring work from Jacky Green, Therese Ritchie and Seán Kerins opens at the Northern Centre for Contemporary Art in Darwin from 5 to 26 August 2017.

“I want the government and mining companies to know that we are still here. We aren’t going anywhere. We aren’t dead yet. We are still here, feeling the country,” Jacky Green.

Jacky Green is a Garawa warrior and artist. He was born in 1953 in a creek bed on Soudan station in the Northern Territory where is father was working at the time. School was the bridle and the blanket, learning on the pastoral stations. He was taught Law by his grandfathers, father, uncles and other senior kin. His early life was spent working as a stockman on pastoral stations in the Gulf Country.

His extensive knowledge of the Gulf Country and its peoples was developed through ceremony, song, hunting, fishing and gathering, and travelling through Country with the old people. For the past thirty years he has worked tirelessly with the Indigenous peoples of the Gulf; fighting first, to get Country back in Aboriginal ownership, and then to protect and care for it.

In 2005, he, along with other Garawa and Waanyi people, started the Garawa and Waanyi/Garawa Ranger groups to care for over 20,000 square kilometres of ancestral land, and to create meaningful work in a remote and challenging region with few employment opportunities.

Jacky says he started painting to get his voice out.

“I want to show people what is happening to our country and to Aboriginal people. No one is listening to us. What we want. How we want to live. What we want in the future for our children. It’s for these reasons that I started to paint. I want government to listen to Aboriginal people. I want people in the cities to know what’s happening to us and our country. I want the government and mining companies to know that we are still here. We aren’t going anywhere. We aren’t dead yet. We are still here, feeling the country.”

Jacky Green’s story for Red Country:

Right across the McArthur River region are The Dreaming tracks of the ancestral beings. The barramundi, the two snakes who travelled together and the one that come up from the south. The Rainbow Snake and the Stinking Turtle. They all there. So too are the places where they coiled or rested, or went down under the earth like at the place I have marked in the river. Big name places, important and sacred places, they are right across the region and they tie people to places and people together.

Right in the middle of this sacred country is a torn-up place, right where the Sacred Tree is that forms part of the Rainbow Snake story. It’s a big name place, right where the massive open cut pit now is. The black represents the hole that keeps getting bigger and bigger and the brown represents how the mining company is now talking about stuffing all the toxic waste rock back in the hole before they take-off with their money and leave us and generations to come with their toxic mess.

The Christmas Father, Jacky Green,  2017, 99 x 92cm, acrylic on canvas

The blue, green, yellow and red areas represent the four clan groups of the southwest Gulf Country, the Garawa, Marra, Gudanji and Yanyuwa.

In the middle sit The Dreaming ancestors, the Rainbow Snake and the Stinking Turtle. We all tied into this powerful place through our sacred songs, our ceremony and our Law. This place is right where Glencore have dug their massive open cut pit at McArthur River Mine.

On the left of the painting, sitting in the hills looking out are spirit people. They can see some people tryin’ to stay on their country, tryin’ to keep their culture and Law strong and protect their country. But they can also see how the miners work like the Christmas Father throwing out Toyota motorcars, just like lollies, in front of people with the aim of gettin’ them to agree to damaging our sacred places and contaminating our country. Some of our people run with their arms open wide and their eyes closed tight shut to get to the shit that the miners throw down. But while they running to get a little they can’t see how the miners are ripping our people apart and contaminating our country with the toxic waste they make.

The Whitefella Chicken-bird dreaming, Jacky Green, 2017, 47 x 40cm, acrylic on canvas

The miners keep trying to smash our Law and how we want to organise and represent ourselves. They take our people away from our culture to make it easier for them to take our resources from our Country.

They work out who they think are the main traditional owners for an area and then they swoop down, like a clumsy bird of prey, and grab them, and take them away to their nest.

A man with ceremonial paint can see what’s happening and tries to spear what he sees as a Whitefella chicken-bird. At the nest the miner man, standing up, starts to give them chicken food to keep quiet and get the OK for sacred sites to be damaged. ‘You just sing our song now’ he says thowin’ them scraps.

Yee-haw, Money trucks, Jacky Green, 2017, 87 x 100cm, acrylic on canvas

Year after year mining trucks keep taking the minerals from our country. The miners cut our river and diverted its waters to dig at the resting place of the Rainbow Snake. Year after year, hour on hour, the trucks haul the minerals away. They take all the Spirit from the country. They take wealth from our country, leaving behind a huge open cut pit and toxic waste rock pile for us to clean up. They cut-open the guts of the Snake and left us with the mess.

We hurt when we see those trucks driving through our country. Just like the cowboys scream Yee-haw at the rodeo I imagine the miners riding their trucks across our country screaming, “Yee-haw, I’m rich, Fuck you!


Open Cut
Jacky Green, Therese Ritchie & Seán Kerins
Thursday 10 August 2017 6pm
Public programs: Artist panel, Saturday 12 August 12 noon; other public programs tba.

An exhibition of photographic portraits by Therese Ritchie forms the core of the exhibition, supported by paintings by Jacky Green. The works overall represent a collection of Garawa voices from Borroloola in the Gulf region of the NT in response to the impact of development and mining in particular on their country. Ritchie’s portraits continue a recent development in her photo-based practice where the body of the subject/sitter is inscribed with text that has been chosen/stated by the sitter; the works are highly collaborative in their construction and in this case facilitated by Jacky Green and Seán Kerins, a Canberra-based anthropologist who has researched and written extensively on the Gulf region and related cultural and economic issues, and who has previously collaborated with Jacky Green to present exhibitions in Melbourne and Canberra.

This show is to coincide with the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Awards exhibition at the Museum and Art Gallery NT, Darwin; part of Darwin Festival program.