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Interview (cont.) Question: The notion of ‘objective’ study in a sense? Exactly, this was inflicted upon you. And if Professor says this is right in the Aboriginal world, you took it as granted.  But no longer is this happening. They’re saying ‘hey, the Professor could be wrong’, and they’re going to the full bloods. And it’s no good asking me that kind of thing, because I’m (a) not a full blood; (b) I’ve always been an urban Aborigine and the answer to all these stories lies with the full bloods … the tribal elders. And the sooner we get the tribal elders in teaching the young people, be they black, white, green or yellow - the better. In what other ways do you view the importance of the arts as a means of communicating? And bringing people closer together? Yes, well what else can one say about the arts, that’s what it’s all about. We’re about to undergo now hopefully a cultural revolution – I’m all for it – because it’s the arts that change situations for the better or for the worst. The arts don’t do it mainly for the worst, they do it for the better.  Politicians have to go along with it in the long run. So it means educating mentally constipated politicians and God help us we have too many in this country already. Oodgeroo on her sources of inspiration and her first exhibition of artworks What was your background in terms of learning how to draw? Self taught. Did you doodle at school? Oh all the time. All the time. Yes, I was always drawing. What motivated you to start on these new drawings for your first public exhibition of art and to do your fabric designs and painting too? Was there a particular spark that got you going? Well I’ve always wanted to do it, but my people came first and I realized that (for this reason) the written word had to be done first.  The need wasn’t there back then and being hopefully a logical person, I put the first things first.  But I looked forward to my old age because I thought that - should time permit - I’d be able to do what I’d always wanted to do, drawing and painting. This is my first love. How common was if for women to paint in Aboriginal cultures? Well, see in the olden days Aboriginal women didn’t touch the brush at all. That wasn’t women’s job. And during the civil rights movement, some of the people had opened an art class and the tribal elders were coming in … the painters, the artists … and they were teaching the boys. Then one day a little girl walked in and demanded that she be taught too. And this was against the whole tradition of the Aboriginal way. So the Church Minister involved at that time, who played a marvelous role in the Aboriginal field of civil rights and was also worried about it because he knew it was against the tradition of the people, hit on the idea of asking the tribal elders to decide whether the girl could sit in or not. And the tribal elders in their wisdom said we will watch and let her go in for one day.  So the tribal elders watched the painters with the little girl allowed to sit in. For about three weeks the tribal elders just sat in the class and watched them. And then they met to make up their decision. Afterwards they went back to the Minister and said let her stay. Consequently there was this breakthrough ... this was about 1965 and this was the first breakthrough that I know of where the women picked up the brush. But with the urban Aborigine, kids, women, anyone can pick it up, because we’re not full blood. So you’re not held by those traditions? I’m not held by that tradition.  But I’m held to respect the old peoples’ way and I could not, for instance, ever copy anything that they’ve done.  What materials are you using? Well I’m using pens – coloured felt pens and I’ve been doing pen and ink drawings (as well). And I’m also doing acrylics. I’m not as happy with the acrylics as I am with the pen and ink. How do you think what you are doing fits in the wider mould of things – Aboriginal and art generally? Art fits in anywhere … I’m hoping I’ll open the doors to all the young artists who are sitting on the fringe there. They’re frustrated. I’m hoping that instead of drawing their wonderful paintings on the ground and thinking in terms of Ned Kelly and Ben Hall (the bushrangers), etc, that they will take up the pen and they will take up the brush and use it to hang their art on walls instead of just being left for the sands of time to wipe out. Looking at the sources of inspiration for your work, in addition to the Aboriginality, the themes are predominantly nature aren’t they? Of course I need to be close in with the environment … have it around me. I’m right down there to the grass roots ... if a bird sings in a different way, I think ‘ah, something is going to happen’.  My closeness to nature makes me very conscious of environmental balance. Would you describe yourself as an environmentalist? Oh, definitely … an environmentalist, yes.  A ‘child of nature’, ‘woman of nature’, whatever, but don’t call me a ‘lady’ … that I cannot take (laughing).  But I do communicate with the birds, with the animals, with the living things around me and I think that’s perhaps why my paintings are what they are. You have a special link and appreciation there because of Moongalba? I think I’ve been given something because of the environment in which I live (at Moongalba on Stradbroke Island). I have something special, yes.  When one of the great Aboriginal potters and artists (name withheld) who died in 2002, saw them, he said ‘oh you lucky dog, do it with nature and you’ve got nothing to compete against. He said I envy you. I said ‘well come on down here for a while and do your pottery here’ - that was my answer to him. But like all artists the issue was being busy making a living … you’ve got to live. And so I think that I’ve got time to communicate, but in the concrete jungle one does not communicate. I don’t think I could do what I’ve done here (with these artworks) up here in Brisbane and the city. I couldn’t do it. It wouldn’t have the free flow.  [Read more ...] Page 3 of 4 1 I   2 I   3 I   4    
Aboriginal Flag: Harold Thomas
"If a bird sings in a different way, I think aah, something is going to happen."
"My closeness to nature makes   me very conscious of environmental balance." 
"So it means educating mentally constipated politicians and           God help us we have too many        in this country already.”  

Legacy of a True National Treasure of Australia: Interview, Page 3


Oodgeroo Noonuccal (3)