‘You’ll have to keep up’ says Neta. ‘I move pretty fast around the kids’. The kids. That’s the first thing that strikes me about the how this piece of community art is being created. Put paintbrushes in the hands of nearly 100 kids and surely there’ll be some little ADHD shit-head who’ll just smear paint everywhere? But no. They all have that beautifully absorbed expression as they place the dots carefully in the spaces that ‘Auntie Neta’ tells them.
‘The dots represent the footprints’ Neta says. ‘So the tracks are all coming towards the meeting place; and that’s the people sitting around the campfire. See there’s the bum and there’s the knees’ She laughs. ‘It’s about coming together in community’. The painting is intended as a gift. To be hung in a politicians’ office somewhere to promote a cause which seems like a no-brainer to me – Indigenous Rangers in Parks. The community benefit: creating role models, caring for the immensely important resource that is our remaining bush, improving the sense of custody that ties-in with ‘singing up the land’; It’s a wonder that successive governments haven’t got around to making it happen yet.
Neta handles being the center of attention with grace and a patience born from the oldest living culture on the planet. Among all the grounded, relaxed, absorbed people making art -the politicians flap around like attention seeking aliens but she treats them just the same. ‘Oh hello Neta I’m the member for blah, blah, blah and I just wanted to introduce myself…’
‘Hello girl I’m Neta – the soon to be member for Fremantle’ she replies with a twinkle in her eye.
Despite the interruptions her eyes keep coming back to me. ‘You and me will have a yarn eh?’ she says.
Straight up I ask the big question ‘So if there was one message that the Noongar people could have for the rest of us – what would it be?’. It’s bit too direct but she handles my clumsiness with good humor as her eyes flick back to the painting and the people gathered in the park under the trees. ‘Just that we share this land now’ She finally says. ‘We’ve got to walk together in forgiveness.’ I believe her.