“Kalkadoon and Pitta Pitta Country” a cyber-exhibition – words and pictures about history and landscape art by John Tracey.
Baganan Kurityityin Theresa Creed surveys her country as far as the eye can see, which is a long way in the desert.
Kalkadoon and Pitta Pitta country is in North West Queensland, Australia.
Many of the kalkadoon and Pitta Pitta people were taken by truck from reserves on their homelands to Palm Island, off the coast of Townsville.
Pitta Pitta kountry – Mucklandarma
A sacred waterhole to the Pitta Pitta people, captured as a native police barracks in the late 19th century. Apart from denying the Pitta Pitta and surrounding peoples an important source of water and spritual connection, it became the site of many tortures and murders of local Aboriginal people by the native police – Aboriginal police officers under the command of white police officers. One Pitta Pitta elder tells the story of people being marched in chains the 25 kilometres from Boulia to the Native Police camp where their screams would not disturb the residents of Boulia as they were beaten, shot or hung. Bones of people unceremoniuously dumped in the waterhole have been found since the disbanding of the native police and stories remain of bodies being burnt when white residents became concerned about their own waterways becoming fouled by the barracks.
Many Aboriginal girls and women were raped by police officers and many simply “dissappeared” at the barracks.
The war of occupation of land has not simply been about real estate or economic assets, it has been a spiritual war, one that has seen amongst the carnage the turning of a beautiful source of life such as the Mucklandarma waterhole, into a place of grief and sorrow, a reminder of the worst side of human capacity and its imposition on the most innocent and beautiful of situations. The blessings of the land have become unresolved curses as a consequence of the war.
The old Aboriginal “compound” at Boulia.
The waterholes such as Bulloo Bulloo, which the township of Boulia is based on or Mucklandarma are central to life and spirit in the arid district.
Non-Aboriginal Australian landscape art often portrays the bush or wilderness without people or without a social history. Yet the Australian landscape is full of the ancient spirits that have created the landscape as well as the recent history of the war over land between Aboriginal people and the new Australians.
The first European representations of the Australian bush, the artists on board Cook’s “Endeavour”, drew strange looking people, but people none the less as a part of the environment.
The hills around Mt.Isa are monuments to the battles for defence of country that raged in the area and the warriors who lost their lives, every bit as significant in Australian history as Gallipolli in Turkey or Long Tan in Vietnam.
Since the land wars have subsided we often marvel at the wilderness as a place as if nobody lives or has ever lived there. Non-Aboriginal Australian landscape art movements have too often been, in my opinion, blind to the spiritual truth, history and story of the landscapes that they have represented.
All words and pictures are by John (Sean) Tracey and have been authorised by Baganan Theresa Creed who was present or nearby when the photos were taken. All images are copyright 2006 kurityityin-du Theresa Creed. Thank you to Dick Suter and the Boulia Stonehouse museum for presenting the truck and iron ball (ball and chain).