Name: Monique La Fontaine
Monique La Fontaine - CSR Proejct and the team [ORAL HISTORY]
Synopsis: Monique La Fontaine talks about her role in the Canning Stock Route Project, travelling on the Canning Stock Route trip, and how the Project is concerned with mapping the Country with paintings, not strictly with the Stock Route. Monique also discusses her best moments and challenges, her favourite painting, and the way Aboriginal crews bring qualities to the project that non-Indigenous professionals can't.
Language spoken: English
Catalogue number: CSROH_191_Monique_La_Fontaine
Interviewed By: Clint Dixon
Location Recorded: Old Masonic Hall, Nedlands
Cultural Protocols: Public Access - Verbal Consent
Full transcript: Clint Dixon: Can you introduce yourself?
Monique La Fontaine: Sure. My name’s Monique La Fontaine and I’m 37, and I’m Napaljarri, or Milangka, and I live in Perth at the moment, in Fremantle, but I used to live up north in Fitzroy and Broome.
CD: Where do you work?
MLF: I work at FORM, and I work on the Canning Stock Route Project.
CD: What's your role at FORM?
MLF: Well, on the Canning Stock Route project, that’s the only thing I focus on, I am, we all have quite a few different roles and they all get snowballed into one, and I’m content development and I’m working on the editorial team for the book and working on lots of different things. I’ll lend a hand when it comes to the curator’s program, I’m involved in working with the curators and cataloguing all the artworks and keeping a record of all the decisions that are made and organising all the content that’s being developed in all these meetings, and when we go out bush and collect oral history, and that kind of thing, I work quite closely with John.
CD: How did you get involved with the CSR project?
MLF: Well, I had just finished working for the Kimberly Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre, working on a big book that they’d been putting together for a long time. And I was about to start a job working in theatre and performance and I got sent an email about the Canning Stock Route Project looking for Indigenous workers for their big Canning Stock Route trip, and they said they were putting together a book and an exhibition and films and I thought this sounds good, this sounds better than my other job! And so I just rang up and said are you looking for any workers and they said yeah, down the track, we definitely will be, and so yeah, here I am.
CD: Did you actually go on the CSR?
MLF: I was on the last part of the Canning Stock Route. Me and Clint, who’s our wonderful filmmaker, and Wally, we all travelled in together – that was amazing, I was really stoked that we got to be on some small part of the trip, would have loved to be on the whole thing. But, yeah, it was an awesome conclusion to that whole trip and everybody coming in together, and yeah it was pretty amazing.
CD: How was your experience over the last few days?
MLF: I loved it, yeah, loved it. I was a bit jealous of everybody who had been on the whole thing, I was just … yeah, it was fantastic ‘cause there were about five or six different language groups that all came together, and of course they’re all related and everybody was really happy to see each other and lots of painting and dancing and beautiful Country and yeah, it was very special. I love being around lots of old people and people who are painting and just seeing people fully getting into their cultural business and enjoying catching up with family and yeah, I love that.
CD: What was the best part of the trip?
MLF: The best part … yeah, was really, just being around lots of … for me it’s always been out bush and just being around Aboriginal people from … especially when it’s lots of people from lots of different areas it’s, I … I just love it, I love seeing how people do things in a different way and just speak in a way that shows how they’re seeing the world and how they see everything around them and, especially with old people, just learning things from what they know and how they’ve grown up and … just a little tiny glimpse of their amazing knowledge. And the other amazing thing about that last few days, for me and my first introduction to the Canning Stock Route Project, was having all these really amazing young people, ‘cause old people are so amazing and they’re this power and this force, and seeing really amazing young people, these young leaders coming up, and seeing them getting more skills and being trained in other areas but also seeing them with their old people and still learning more and more on that side, but then learning these other professional skills. And just seeing how motivated everybody was and excited and … yeah it was just beautiful, I just came away feeling really inspired and excited and very proud and blessed to be a part of something like that. Yeah, that was the best part for me.
CD: Can you tell me about the singing and dancing?
MLF: Um … I think, yeah, I’m not exactly sure but I think that was all the Wiluna mob and I think they were kind of singing and dancing the right songs and dances for that Country – like sort of welcoming all that mob here, you’ve come up to this … to Nyarna, now Lake Stretch in Billiluna, and they were just dancing the right … that was my impression, I’m not exactly sure, I could be wrong, but I thought they were just kind of welcoming everybody to that Country with the dances that belong around there or the people who belong there. Yeah, that kind of … ‘cause that seemed to be happening all the way along, that people would do the right kind of cultural things for the right kind of Country and welcoming people and all that kind of thing so … yeah, I didn’t see it so much as a thank you to the Canning Stock Route Project, but certainly a celebration that this was moving through that Country. But, yeah, just kind of introducing you culturally to the other side of what that Country is.
CD: Can you tell me a bit more about this curators’ meeting?
MLF: This curators’ meeting has been really amazing, really exciting. The first curators’ meeting was really exciting as well, amazing, but it was all the first one, for all of us, there was a lot of organisation and a lot of really starting from scratch, and we had quite a small space that we were working in, a good space, but it was quite narrow and corridors that we had to sort of squeeze around. This time we all kind of know what we’re doing, all the curators understand what they’re working with, we’ve got all these new works and we’ve kind of moved into the next stage where they’re making really big decisions about the kind of … all kinds of things about the themes, the stories, the strong works and how they’re all going to fit together, and connecting important stories that need to be told as a part of this exhibition with strong visual works and … yeah, it’s been just … it’s moved very fluidly, and yeah it’s been really exciting, it’s taking shape in front of our eyes – which is, yeah, very exciting.
CD: How has the idea of the CSR impacted on the choice of paintings?
MLF: Well, that was really critical because what we all realised was, I mean, this is a project that’s made of nine different art centres from nine different parts of a very large … two thirds of Western Australia, and everybody all, especially the senior painters, that when they paint, they paint either their Country or a Country that is important to them or they’ve lived in or had ties to in some kind of way, so really they’re painting a part of the Country – so we realised that we, to organise that, to understand the work that had been made, we really needed to map it out so … and we could virtually map out that whole region by putting somebody’s painting of this place there and then somebody else’s painting as the place next to it, and then there’s another place over there and we ended up with basically a map of the Country, and the Canning Stock Route just kind of was a direction point – and that’s really what the whole project was about. That really, as the project has evolved it became really obvious that this story for Aboriginal people and Aboriginal artists is really not about that stock route, it’s about the impact of that stock route on a Country that existed, you know, tens and tens and tens of thousands of years before Canning Stock Route was ever conceived of. So, yeah, it’s really about that whole Country, and that line just kind of runs through it like a thread that’s been sown on top of an amazing canvas.
CD: How is the project going now?
MLF: Pretty amazingly, it’s just grown and grown and just keeps growing. It’s created so many opportunities and it was like, I suppose, that’s a metaphor, that originally when it was conceived maybe it was about this line, this Canning Stock Route idea and the people whose Country was like buttons on that line, that’s what maybe the original idea was, but then we realised no, this Canning Stock Route story it’s about this huge spread of fabric that’s just incredible, and it’s all connected, and there are so many stories woven into it, and there are so many people with talents who can actually show what that big story is about – all our filmmaking mob, our curators, all our artists, the oral historians, people providing their oral histories, it’s just kept growing and growing and growing. So it’s, yeah … it’s pretty extraordinary.
CD: How do you feel about the six emerging artists? Who are they?
MLF: I love our six emerging curators and multimedia. I just, yeah, it’s really exciting, it’s … I’ve said that quite a lot, it’s really exciting, but it really is. For me, that is one of the really special parts of this project that we have, like I was saying before, we have these six young people who are really strong and talented and they’re all people who have always listened to old people. But they’re young leaders and they’re starting to take responsibility for being young leaders in their own right, and they’ve all got really specific talents and those talents, in this project, are being … like, they’re being given new skills, their being mentored by people who have been in the industry, in both of those industries, for a lot longer so they’ve been able to impart lots of new knowledge. But those curators, because they’re Indigenous and they come from that Country, they bring so much more than those professionals do on another level because they are Indigenous, and they understand things that the non-Indigenous professionals just can’t know about perceiving that Country or telling those stories or understanding connections between things that … us mob, we just don’t, even though we may have been around Aboriginal people for a long time, we didn’t grow up that way so we just don’t know. So there’s this richness and this authenticity and integrity, and also they’re just the most amazing people – our curators and multimedia.
CD: Can you tell me their names and where they come from?
MLF: I can. We have Terry Murray, Murungkurr, who’s from Fitzroy Crossing and he’s a Walmajarri man. We have Hayley … and he worked with Mangkaja Arts for quite a long time and he’s a painter as well at Mangkaja Arts. We have Hayley Atkins, who is a Martu girl and she’s from Martumili Artists, and she’s a curator there as well – and she’s also an emerging artist herself, and the Canning Stock Route Project was the first time she’d painted. And then we’ve got Louise Mengil, who is from Kununurra and she’s a Mirruwong girl and she works … although she comes from accounting she has really … really interesting because Murungkurr and Hayley are both artists, on that creative side, whereas Louise has a passion for art, just a veracious passion for art, but she’s from an accounting degree, she’s working on an accounting degree, so she comes from that money business side. But yeah, it’s a really great balance of people and they all come cultural backgrounds from completely different areas too, so they bring that richness of understanding things and being people who all really respect their elders and … yeah, it’s really very strong.
And, of course, of our multimedia crew, we have three emerging filmmakers – we have Clint Dixon, who is from Goolarri media, he’s Buru and Yaronguriguri from Broome side and he works with Goolarri media and he is a fantastic filmmaker and he’s … through … during the period he’s been working on the Canning Stock Route Project and in his own work at Goolarri, he’s really taken some major steps in being recognised as having lots of talent, he’s been promoted as being a trainee director and he’s producing really fantastic stuff on the Canning Stock Route Project. We have Morika Biljabu who’s also an amazing talent, she’s really young, she’s only nineteen and she’s a photographer as well as a filmmaker, and her passion is really filming and creating media sort of stuff with her own mob in language, on Country, that’s where she’s really comfortable and really just happiest and strongest, and her stuff is really powerful and beautiful as well and very much in that space of being on Country with her mob. And then we have KJ Kenneth Martin who’s from Halls Creek and he travelled on quite a bit of the Canning Stock Route Project as well, and he is a Gija bloke, from Halls Creek, and he works at the radio station there and a few other things, sort of moves around. And he’s also got his own totally unique style, all of our filmmakers have a completely unique style which works so well for us because the three of them together create this whole realm of, yeah, a really diverse way of looking at different aspects of this project. That’s really, really amazing.
CD: What have been the best moments?
MLF: There’s been lots of … just generally just being involved in the whole thing and today’s been really exciting, I reckon, because today’s when we really started culling out … we’ve been selecting and going through works, well the curators anyway, they’ve been looking at everything and now we’ve just been told, yesterday, that we’re going to Beijing, we can take up to 20 works to Beijing. We’ve got a small area of space that we’re able to fit things in, so the curators today have been going through all their star works and their personal top fives and just culling through and working and how … and actually setting up a little fake space and working out how it all fits together. And that’s been just, yeah, really, really exciting. And just hanging out together, lots of laughs and there have been some really funny and fun moments and exciting ones.
CD: I here someone's writing a song. Can you tell me about it?
MLF: There was a very special song, and I think it’s going to go to Triple J’s Hottest 100, it’s called ‘Clint I Love You’ – Clint you are my sweetheart and you have the most beautiful knees. And it’s by a man called John Carty, who just fell in love … it was quite a tragic love story, he was already married and he fell in love with one of our filmmakers. It’s an unrequited love affair but I think it’ll be one of those ones that people will write poetry about in the next fifty to eighty years.
CD: Anything else to add?
MLF: I think I’ve said everything that I can think of right now. I’ve said exciting too many times – exciting, exciting, exciting, it’s so great, amazing!
CD: What is the greatest challenge in creating this project?
MLF: I think the biggest challenge, really the biggest challenge for lots of us on the team is that, as I was saying, the Canning Stock Route Project started off big and it grew to be massive, and there’s so much material and so much stuff that’s so amazing and we have nine art centres and eighty-two artists, nine custodians, we have a really large and growing team that all have amazing and unique skills. I think the biggest challenge for us all is to get everything done by the deadlines that we need to, because there’s just so much, we’re creating a book, we’re creating a number of films, major publication, lots of films, a big touring exhibition and then we’re repatriating and archiving all of the intellectual property and material that we collected, all the oral histories, all the film, everything. There’s so much that getting that done is one challenge.
And also, for those of us who were working with that content and trying … like the curators, the filmmakers, the editorial team, actually trying to pull all of that amazing material together and to create something that can actually communicate to audiences really clearly and really powerfully the most important parts of that story. For us, as the curators this week, that’s been a real example of that, of having to choose between things, we can’t have everything in, it’s like … we have to let that go, it’s really got an important part to it and an important story but we can’t have everything. So that’s a real challenge – creating the story out of a really huge amount of really amazing material.
CD: Can you tell us about your favourite painting?
MLF: Well this is not my absolute favourite, I couldn’t pick one, and some of my favourites are actually downstairs with the curators being worked into this travelling exhibition right now. So this one wasn’t taken and I do love this one. This is Nora Wompi and she lives at Kunawarritji, which is Well 33, she’s a Martu … she’s got ties to Martu and also, I think, on Kukatja side as well, but I know she paints for Warlayirti artists at Balgo as well, but she lives at Kunawarritji so she paints for both of those art centres. And this actual painting is about Kunawarritji, which is Well 33, and I just think it’s … just gorgeous, so bright and beautiful, and I love the dynamics of the way it’s been composed and these sections and … yeah, I just love it, it’s just beautiful.
Video recording: Tape 14
Rights: © FORM, transcript only
Provenance: This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.