Reflections from the Itinerant Art Project | Mparntwe Alice Springs

01/11/2020

Itinerant Art Project is a growing collaboration that has emerged over the last few years out of people's lived experiences of homelessness in Mparntwe Alice Springs.

As part of the 2020 Desert Festival IAP presented their work at the opening night street party and in an exhibition at Watch This Space. Their work has been supported by the Australia Council for the Arts. Follow the Itinerant Art Project on facebook and instagram.

Regional Arts Australia: What motivated the Itinerant Art Project? Was it a relationship? A conversation? A statistic? A lived experience?

Terry: So we can show them about our stories, tell them about our stories, and about bush tucker.

Johan: Our friend Anna went to all the government departments and humbugged them for money which kicked it off.

Anna: We ended up being fully funded by The Australia Council.

Helen: I work with Anna doing painting, and we tell stories about what painting is like.

Rahab: Yes, it is a relationship, and some people can come from bush and work with Helen and with Terry to show how they’ve been working before, then we can start to understand, they can give us ideas, and we can work with them. I always see Terry and Helen, they always are working together, and know each other through staff like Anna, and I’m here as I’m part of that too.

Anna: Yeah, it started from a relationship. Terry, Helen and I were working together at the Community Centre, and then when I finished we talked about the project and developed the project, and Johan came along and became a Lead Artist, Rahab came along and participated, and the work is very relationship based.

Rahab: That’s what it’s all about.

Terry: And lived experience.

Johan: Motivation came from being able to put our story on canvas using a paint brush.

RAA: Tell us about your exhibition with Watch This Space during the 2020 Desert Festival? What did it look like? What were you trying to communicate? How did it feel as an artist to present work here in your own locale? What did you learn from the process?

Terry: Showing our art on our tents, showing our designs, and to see what it was like when they had the parade. The opening was really fun and I talked. To show how we can help others. Show them our design, our experience.

Rahab: It’s about working together. Then people can be really proud of what they are doing, doing painting on the tent, it was really excellent, I was really happy, and I might keep doing that, keep painting on the tents and maybe on a swag for next year.

Johan: It was about our lifestyle, the tents, the sort of things we live in, and the ideas that pop in our head living in the tent.

Helen: The exhibition was really good. We showed them how painting was and explained it to them, and told the stories about the painting.

Johan: I learnt that people are a lot more open, a lot more friendly towards me now, strangers greet me in the street, people who didn’t know me, know me better.

Terry: Making new friends that I didn’t know before. Now I know how to talk to people on radio and do media. I was a bit shy but now I know how to do it.

Helen: I learned the stories from my Great Great Parents, my mother, that’s why I follow the stories from the start.

RAA: How does the country and township of Mparntwe Alice Springs shape the IAP?

Rahab: When people come to town they like staying in the river. They’ve got no where to stay, and they are homeless people so they can look after themselves.

Johan: There’s heaps of people living in tents in the creek. They also live in the church yard. There’s a real itinerant population here, people passing through, daily, it’s the position of the town, people going north, south, east, west.

RAA: How has Covid-19 impacted your way of thinking and working in 2020?

Terry: People loose their jobs, not much money.

Johan: We can’t sit together at lunch tables no more, we have to stand apart in the street, a lot of those crosses and hop scotch designs have gone onto our tents.

Anna: Covid made me realise how important our project was, how it created a special relationship and avenue to talk to people and share information and help people where organisations were not working. Myself and Terry did some volunteer work, we made some photos to share information.

Rahab: And also we support Terry and Helen working with you, Yapa people (Aboriginal People) teaching this way.

Anna: Yeah, it was really important as well, that we were all working together.

Rahab: We’ve been working together so long.

RAA: Has the IAP impacted your lives beyond these workshops and exhibitions? If so, how?

Terry: It makes me feel more strong about myself, made me think about helping other people.

Johan: Yeah, I find people are more open to chit chat with me because they are aware of the exhibition, or they’ve seen it online, or maybe heard about it on TV.

Rahab: I am really proud of my cousin Terry, he’s been working so long, and he’s still working.

Anna: For myself, it has really impacted my way of working. I've developed a deeper understanding, and respect, and desire to work with lived experience, and just seeing the value that art has in community, it has helped define a good way of working for me. Another outcome which has come out of this project is the need for another community centre. The Waterhole is great for emergency services, but there are people who would like to do more, people who would like to do enterprise, and I feel like there’s scope for that, for creative enterprise, business opportunities in our community.

Rahab: Exactly, that’s what needs to be set up.

Anna: A strength based, arts based community centre.

Johan: Yeah, fantastic.

Helen: Another community centre, so we can do art every day instead of sitting home doing nothing, so we just want to do a bit more art and do something, have somewhere we go, with an art shop, and we can paint, sit around and do painting and sell them.

Johan: An art based community centre, fantastic idea.

Terry: Fantastic.

Rahab: And I’m just really happy to be sharing our stories.