The Jigalong jiggle
Jigalong is a two hour drive from Newman and sits on the edge of the Little Sandy Desert, home of the Martu people. Unlike Yandeyarra and Warralong, Jigalong is lucky enough to be better resourced with a Community Health Centre, a shop, a petrol station, a ranger’s headquarters and a police station.
One of my highlights for Jigalong was seeing award winning Martu filmmaker, Curtis Taylor, join us over our four day visit, to produce a short film documenting our time within the community. Curtis, who hails from neighbouring community Parngurr, enlisted the help of local Martu film makers Natrisha Wongawol and Bernice Samson to capture footage. It was a special marriage as Curtis’ portrait features in the exhibition where he comments on his passion for film making. In the two years since that portrait was taken by Tobias, Curtis has won the prestigious 2011 Youth Arts Award at the Western Australian Citizen of the Year Award, is studying film making plus travels internationally creating and presenting his films.
The kids loved having Curtis around and responded so well to being filmed. At times during activities I would see the kids playing up to the camera or looking over Curtis’ shoulder to see him work. He’s a remarkable role model for the Martu kids in the community and we were so privileged to engage him to produce this film.
Another unusual highlight was seeing the exhibition hold up to rain. After having the exhibition purpose designed and built to withstand weather like rain, it was kind of nice to see it finally get wet. The teachers informed us that it hadn’t rained in eight weeks and this was extremely unexpected. However the weather presented another problem. All of our activities required kids to explore and work within the exhibition space and the rain posed an obstacle. After I did my usual introduction to the Cluey Detective activity I offered the class two options:
- they could go out into the rain and work in the exhibition, or
- they could solve the clues using the catalogue thereby staying nice and dry.
Surprisingly 75 per cent of the kids opted to go out into the rain. Their teacher, Angie Tippett, assured me this would be the more popular option despite the freezing cold. She was right.
But the biggest highlight for me didn’t come easily. I had heard that the kids love discos in Jigalong so six weeks before arriving I thought I would start organising one. Over that time I bounced between names and organisations, within Jigalong, who could possibly assist me. I humbugged the local police, the council, the school and even the nurses to help me organise a disco but, alas, the day before our community event came and I still did not have a PA, smoke machine, lights, mirror ball, music or a DJ that I had heard existed. As I went around to key places in the community putting up the poster promoting the next evening’s event, which was probably going to be a fizzer, I wandered over to the rangers HQ to see if they would like to come. I was told the rangers were going to have a jam session over at the shed and their own BBQ at the same time as our event so they probably wouldn’t be there. So, with a glimmer of hope in my eye and slight desperation in my voice I suggested they put their meat back in the freezer, come along to our BBQ where we would feed them biggest mobs steak, and they could jam at our gig. Although I didn’t get confirmation then and there, I did learn the next day that they had agreed and with the help of the local CDEP (Community Development Employment Program) who supplied all the gear, they made the event a great success.
So the biggest highlight? Of course it ended up being the community event. It went off! Community members came and rocked along to the rangers as they jammed. Museum staff Alison Oakeshott and Michael Evans cooked up a storm on the BBQ (whilst trying not to step on the many dogs underfoot). And community members came to see the exhibition, have some dinner and listen to the band. The kids took a bit of time to build up the courage to dance. At first they would dart out into the middle, jiggle a bit then shoot off around the back of the donga in utter shyness. They would reappear about five minutes later waiting for the next courageous moment to dart out into the middle for another quick jiggle. They did this, in pairs or one by one over the next hour or so –a continual stream of solo jigglers. Finally the kids decided to stay on the dance floor and groove to the ever popular ‘Pipeline’. The band jammed an hour longer than what we suggested which was awesome as the vibe was energetic and happy. Kids darted, danced and played amongst the exhibition. They also proudly showed their families the portraits they had created during the workshops. All up we calculated about 180 people came, including the police, the nurses and the Council staff that I humbugged in trying to make this happen. Everyone said ‘Oh this is much better than a disco’. It was amazing and I was so happy for everyone. It was a wicked and very successful event.
And at exactly 8pm someone announced that the band had finished and with that everyone promptly left in single file out the front gates of the school. I was told later that this was the band’s first ever public performance. They were deadly! I hope they make many more public appearances.
The next day we got up early to pack down the exhibition but we needed to wait for our illustrious filmmaker to arrive so he could get footage of us doing so. Minutes ticked by and although we were not in a mad rush, as we only had a two hour drive ahead of us, we knew Curtis had limited time as he was due on a flight at midday to take him back to Perth and eventually on to Brazil for yet another international engagement. It was a weird moment in the tour. We were finally at the end, it was our last venue, we were poised ready to pack up, but we just stood around, gloves on our hands in readiness just waiting. It was perhaps the first breather we had, doing absolutely nothing, in the whole seven weeks. It only lasted 20 minutes then Curtis rocked up, pulled out his high definition camera and yelled ‘Action’. Well he didn’t really say ‘Action’, I’m just embellishing the story a bit, he just gave a very cool and understated nod and off we went.