Hayley Atkins - curating experience [ORAL HISTORY]
Synopsis: Hayley Atkins talks at length about her experience curating the Yiwarra Kuju exhibition. She talks about things she has learned, and also about her favourite paintings.
Art centre(s): CSR Project, Martumili Artists
Language spoken: English
Catalogue number: CSROH_212_Hayley_Atkins
Location Recorded: Old Halls Creek
Cultural Protocols: Public Access
Full transcript: Carly Davenport: Hayley you were actually the first emerging curator working on the whole project, and you started back in Well 36, that trip in 2007. Do you want to talk a little bit about what this trip was like for you working with Martumilli artists and all of this team? Hayley Atkins: Yeah, when I first ... CD: Ooh ... Nicole Ma: What? CD: Microphone. NM: Oh! NM: Thank you, okay. CD: So yeah, so do you wanna start talking about the Well 36 Return to Country trip? HA: Before that ... Gabreille told me about the stock route, and I was sayin’ to Gabrielle, ‘what is the stock route?’ [laughs]. She said, Well 33 is one of them, it starts from Wiluna to Halls Creek, and I was thinkin’ yep, I wanted to go check it out. They ... Gabrielle told me if I could work on the stock route project ... so I said yes! But still you know ... I was thinking in my head, I didn’t know what the stock route was ... yeah, and finally we made it to 33, and we went bit further to Well 34 then 35, then we all met there. And I get to [XX - ?] and ... me with all the other artists too. Then we all got introduced and that’s where ... when JJ Jefferey James was alive then, he introduced me to all the old people and to all the mob and told me that I was connected to them as well, and JJ was saying ‘this is your granddaughter’ to the old people [laughs], and I was excited too ‘cause I didn’t know. From there, that’s where I learnt how to paint as well, with the old people. These old people was just painting and reading out a lot of stories, a lotta things I didn’t know, like the background of the bushman days, and that’s where I didn’t know that my grandmother Milly Kelly, I didn’t know she used to live up Widjimung [?] lake. Even my dad and mum, my grandparents, they come from the bush as well. So all these stories was just coming and I was just getting excited to know ... I just wanted to really go in deep to the Canning Stock Route Project. CD: So Martumilli Artists have got one of the biggest mobs of the whole exhibition, the whole project. HA: Yeah Martumilli have like worked with six communities, and there’s a lot of artists, even young people, and most of them paint, they, where they come from, and yeah. CD: That means more hard work from you [laughs], keeping up with the mob. HA: Mmm. CD: Hayley, do you wanna talk a little bit about some, I guess good memories, or highlights about what you’ve learnt along the way? Like with working with all the Martumilli artists in that group and then travelling the whole length of the stock route that way, and working with Wally Caruana, working with Monique and John and me ... what’s some of the good memories of the last few years, that you’ve ... HA: [sighs and smiles] CD: Too much? HA: Mmm ... good memories was like travelling on the Stock Road, and even actually seeing the spots and the stories and hearing from the old people, they actually showing you where it happened and where they was walkin’ around ... Even I learn a lot with Wally, like how does stories and the painting really connect and how you have to always like make them sit together, with the colours and the stories, yeah that’s the part I like, I learnt, like ‘cause I didn’t know anything about painting and even the stories when I started working with Martumilli. Gabrielle told me ‘oh you know, when you start working with Canning Stock Route Project, and I was thinkin’, ‘no I don’t wanna work ‘cause I don’t know anything’, but I just want to work so I can just go out there and know everything like painting and stories, I was doing it so it was like a journey for me, like knowing the families and the stories so I was just so proud to be on this project and that’s where I ... I learned how to paint so, the first painting was about my Stock Route painting [laughs]. NM: What was it of, that painting? HA: It was where ... the Seven Sisters were ... um Well 36. Where there was the water, the Seven Sisters created and the men lying down next to it, that’s what I painted. And we got bogged, me and Gabrielle. Another painting was ... Braden Pool, where we had the lunch, we had a lunch there. And ... CD: We hear she got bogged. HA: Another painting, we were sleeping at Well 35, and I painted the Seven Sisters in the sky, like stars. CD: Hayley why do you think it’s so important to listen to the old people? HA: Because they, they know everything, they know the bush life. They got this knowledge, they know the Dreaming and boundaries, everything. They lived that life. Like, it’s changed now ‘cause they all living in a town, and a house. But, so it’s a bit different from living in a town and living out in the bush. Yeah. So it’s good for people, whitefella, whitefellas and young people like us to know the connection and everything, to know that we all just connected no matter what language, different language we speak, but we just one family. CD: From that ... putting that exhibition together, that big special group with everyone contributing. What do you think’s been the most special for you in learning how that show’s gonna work together and sit together? HA: The exhibition itself, like, he tells many stories big and small and by the looks of the exhibition right now it’s, you can already see it ... all the connection, like ... like how Canning, made all the wells ... straight line, it’s like he put a scratch mark or scar through that stock road. It was like for Aboriginal people living the desert life it was good, until Canning went through there, now the people and the story line, their history is where people just got scattered, went different ways and it’s all coming back now for people to see what really happened and the stories all coming back. How it was back then. Like they were living their life singing and dancing through the law, that’s what was precious to them back then and families and connections, they ... um ... waterholes, Dreaming, everything, it was all theirs, and they want to tell the whole world it’s still theirs, you know, and it’s always been theirs since, and it’s good that they ... it’s good that people painting and everything it’s all in there for the other people to know, yeah so, so they could never forget where they come from. Yeah. CD: That old man that passed away he was the real big leader wasn’t he, from Kunawarritji? HA: Yeah he was, I didn’t really wanted him to go, ‘cause it was a bit too early ‘cause he know all the families belong to my grandfather, from [XX - ?]. CD: I mean you know first hand better than anyone because Martumilli Artists have so strongly wanted this project to happen, and that’s why we’ve got so many artists. Do you wanna talk about how you’ve worked with the elders guiding you and what we’re doing in that trip we just did all across the communities? And even now I guess, but even more I guess with your Country too and you making sure they’re happy and ... HA: Um yeah, people that I worked with Martumilli the biggest mob, we have the biggest mob of all the people, mostly they paint sometimes Canning Stock Router, ‘cause they were walking around through there getting contact with the white people for the first time, and they just love to paint and tell their stories, they want people to know about the bushman days. Even the bush tuckers and how they camped, many things been happening, even funny stories [laughs]. And so when I talk to them they talk non-stop and I feel excited when I’m with the old people ‘cause you get a lot out of them and they can teach you a lot of things, even how to sing and dance. CD: And you reckon they’re really keen to let all the [XX - ?] and young ones to know all about this too? HA: Yeah, that’s why they work so hard, they paint and just want the people to know, like get it out there to them, and they can get familiar with all the names of the place. Yeah, but I get really into them, like I really wanna know where they come from and the family tree as well. CD: What’s it been like working with Terry and Louise? HA: [Smiles] It was fantastic ‘cause, Terry and Louise know more than me, how to work, like, when I started first working, I didn’t really know much, but now I just know. So um, yeah we work really good. CD: And you have a bit of fun? HA: Yeah, so we get along just fine [laughs]. CD: And what about say working with Nola and Tom in different ways, different places? HA: Yeah with Nola ... working with her like, she helped me a lot. ‘Cause I don’t speak much of Manyjilyjarra I just, I can listen right, I can understand it a little, but not those hard words, so that’s why I wanted Nola to come in. But first, when I worked with this project, ‘cause too much was coming into my head, like all this screaming, you know, I was bit uncomfortable. Like, this is a big thing you know, could ... get in trouble, so, that’s why I asked if Nola could come on board and work with us, and check with the every old people to check if they want to work and story to be told. But actually everybody likes it and yeah there was no concern, only some stuff. So, yeah that’s good I got Nola on the board. And, Tom they really good. CD: What do you reckon of this Kimberley trip so far? We’ve still got to go to Balgo and Mulan. HA: Yeah, I’m lookin’ forward to meetin’ all the people there, ‘cause like, I’m connected to Wompi and Kumpaya and I like to go there and meet people and to know like, how people connected to that way. Yeah, it’s good to know, it good to meet a lot of people I like on this trip, and it’s just good to go and show them the exhibition and talk to them where everything is, so they’re happy CD: What’s the most important thing for you that you’ve learnt along this journey? HA: Mmm ... everything really. Mmm, the Country itself and the people, yeah and the history about it and to get to know other people as well [nods.Mmmm, get to meet them, especially to get to know the artists, yeah, get to meet all the people ‘cause they know, they know people from where I came and yeah, there’s like this connection everywhere, no matter where you go, or how far you go, yeah. CD: What do you reckon of all of us working towards that big party opening in Canberra at the National Museum next year? HA: [smiles] I can’t wait actually, it’s gonna be good fun, yeah um, I will be there, everybody will be there, like, coming together, you know, one people. No matter where we come from, you know, everybody has a story to tell. CD: That’s gonna be a lot of hard work, especially the curator and multimedia mob. HA: Yeah. CD: There gonna be physically building that show in. HA: I can’t wait for that actually, I just wanna be there and can’t stop thinkin’ about it. Yeah, lookin’ forward. NM: There’s a lot of different things to do with the show, a lot of stories and Country and languages, and a lot of people will also be coming to see the show, some people will know alot and some people won’t know anything. So what would you ... what would be the one thing that you would hope that people will take from it, or get out of the show, from seeing the show? HA: To understand the boundaries and know the sacred places and you have to be there with like, going into that Country you have to take a owner, who know that Country and talk that language and ... to understand that we just all connected through our skin colours and that Aboriginal people respect their Dreaming and ... yeah, to respect some sacred sites, and just to – this is who we are as Aboriginal person, you know, this is how they been living, and to just learn about the history and what did happen on the Stock Road it happen, so, just to learn about the past and just to ... yeah just to learn about the history itself, and yeah. NM: That first thing you said about boundaries, why do you think that it’s important to learn about that? HA: ‘Cause, boundaries is like going into somebody’s country. And you have to take a person who know that country, like you don’t just drive past it and go to any rock, hills, or water, there could be sacred sites there, and anything could happen to you. CD: So people respect the guarding mob they gotta respect the Aboriginal way knowledge, when they come into Aboriginal country? HA: Yeah, so hopefully when you driving out, and wanna check out the desert without anyone knowing, so you need to take somebody that knows that Country. NM: What would you say to someone, who says you know, ‘I’ve got a map – I’ve got a Canning Map, you know, I know where I’m going, I don’t need anyone’. HA: As long as they just stick to the road – the Stock Road. If you just drive anywhere, like anything can happen. Like these are some sacred places. NM: So do you think this exhibition will help them understand that a little bit, that there’s a lot of little things going on around there. HA: Yeah. NM: Not just that it’s one road, that they just drive up and down? CD: Hayley what do you think about the title, the new title that Martu mob have offered to all the other mobs, that could be our title? HA: Yeah. CD: Do you wanna say it, like tell the audience what that title is? HA: Yeah, that title is Yiwarra Kuju – it’s mean One Road. And it came from the Manyjilyjarra word, so but we got nine art centres and nine language, that’s big, because all the language group, yeah, we have to try and talk about that title, and which title we can have for the exhibition. So, we asked Martumili mob, so they came up with that word. So I guess, hope, they are happy with that. CD: Do you like the title? HA: Mmm ... yep – and I hope other people like it too. CD: [XX - ?] HA: Yeah. Yeah, they make sense ‘cause it’s just one road, not any other road. So – it’s one road – but many people got stories for it. CD: Hayley, what’s your favourite part of the exhibition, what section or theme do you like working with? HA: Seven Sisters. CD: Can you talk about maybe the artist names that are in there? HA: [XX - ?], [XX - ?], Nancy Chapman, [XX - ?], big Seven Sister painting from three sisters, and Nan’s painting. CD: and why do you like Seven sisters so much, coz that was your first painting as well? HA: Yeah it was, the story about Seven Sisters, that one man was chasing seven girls and wanted to make them wife, but they didn’t like him, and that Seven Sisters story go right through to South Australia and Northern Territory, so it’s a huge story for Seven Sisters. And they created a lot of water and a lot of places, so that’s how I like it. CD: Good. NM: Very Good. CD: Beautiful. NM: Thankyou. CD: Thanks Hayley. CD: It’ll be good when Gabrielle watches that one day, she’ll be so stoked. HA: Yeah, I wanna go back home, and do painting – second one – with you on the phone (laughs) – Gabrielle wanted me to do that – she liked it. NM: What painting’s that? HA: And I really liked it too. CD: She made a special one ... HA: I’s tryna keep it for you. CD: Of me on a satellite phone [laughs]. HA: With that jeans! [points] CD: With these jeans? HA: Yeah! Tryna paint that clothes too. HA: It was very nice. HA: Yeah. NM: Which of the paintings is in the show? HA: Nothing. CD: No. NM: Or we can put it in the ... HA: Book? NM: Signature piece? You know that interactive. CD: Mmmm – well a couple of Hayley’s one in particular would be the Tinka, Gabrielle in the swag, you in the swag in the starry night – that would be a wonderful one for ... HA: Gabrielle got that painting on her wall. CD: She owns that one yeah. HA: I been ask for ... I wanted them painting back – [laughs] but it was too late and I seen them hanging in headland [laughs] And I think that other one, they sold. NM: What about the one that was [XX - ?] HA: I dunno, must of Gabrielle got it. NM: She got that one too? HA: She got it too and one woman got it from Adelaide. CD: See, if that National Museum had of got on board earlier, they all would of been kept together, but at least we got the best of the best in. END
Video format: DVD/MiniDV/Quicktime movie
Video recording: 107 Kimberley Approvals, Louise, Hayley IVs, Nov 09
Rights: Cultural Owner & Storyteller: Hayley Atkins; © 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.