Water in a Dry Land: Place Learning Through Art and Story

Mapping the Territory

#Map 1: The Murray-Darling Basin, Australia

This website represents a series of projects in the country of the Murray-Darling Basin, initiated in collaboration with U’Alayi researcher and very dear friend, Chrissiejoy Marshall. Early in our work together Chrissiejoy sustained serious injuries in a car accident and while she persisted in her relationship to the project, she was unable to be actively involved. The work continued to emerge, following the flows of the waters as other artists and researchers joined the team. This site, while designed by Margaret Somerville, represents the work of all of us – Phoenix de Carteret, Daphne Wallace, Badger Bates, Sarah Martin, and Treahna Hamm – and is dedicated to Immiboagurramilbun, Chrissiejoy Marshall. 

In asking how can we think about water differently, the website for Water in a Dry Land opens the possibility of thinking spatially and visually to create new tracings across the land.

 

 

Global sustainability and water


 

‘The world is running out of water. It is the most serious ecological and human rights threat of our time’. What can we learn from the oldest continuing culture in the world inhabiting the world’s driest continent?

 

 

Water in Australia: the Murray-Darling Basin


 

Warrego, Condamine, Balonne, Narran, Barwon, Macintyre, Gwydir, Namoi, Macquarie, Lachlan, Murrumbidgee, Murray, Ovens, Goulburn, ‘The Australian interior was explored, its map-made emptiness written over, crisscrossed with explorers’ tracks and gradually inhabited with a network of names’ (Carter, 1987, xx-xxi).

 

 

Different maps and knowledge production


 

 

The map of the Aboriginal languages of the Murray-Darling Basin offers a different beginning point. The ‘Riverine’ language group shows forty patches of different countries outlined in dark pink to indicate their linguistic coherence. The boundaries of language and country are determined by complex social and ecological relations and negotiations.

 

 

Language, story and storylines


 

Storylines link places across the landscape where significant events in the creation stories of the ancestors took place. Each of these places is a site where ceremony is performed for the wellbeing of country and its people (Somerville and Perkins, 2010).

 

 

Thinking through country: Chrissiejoy Marshall


 

 

In order to make any knowledge claims at all, Chrissiejoy Marshall found she had to think through country, the specific country of the Narran Lake. She developed her methodology using a combination of visual, oral and written forms in order to articulate meanings that would be unsayable in written text alone.

 

 

Mutual entanglement: Daphne Wallace


 

A map showing the different colours of land fenced for cultivation and irrigation, overlaid with the shimmer of living waterways: ‘The story I am part of is one thread of a global web of stories about displacement and resettlement, dispossession & environmental degradation, and will be familiar to thousands of people in rural Australia’ (Findlay, 2006, 311).

 

 

Deep mapping: Kooneberry Mountain, Badger Bates


 

‘A long time ago, Kurluwirru set a snare near the waterhole and caught the kangaroo. He made a kangaroo skin water bag, and left the kangaroo laying there. The kangaroo turned into Koonenberry Mountain which has the shape of a kangaroo lying on its side, the small hills are its tail bones. Kurluwirru's footracks come in where he set the snare at the end of the kangaroo's tracks. Driving from Broken Hill to Tibooburra you see the kangaroo lying there, with his tail facing towards Mutawintji.’

 

 

Wearing country: Baby cloak: Treahna Hamm


 

‘You could wear it as a cloak and use it as a map together. It starts off as being a little child, and when she gets a bit older it’s added to more, and more. You’ve got the beginning of life and the end of life. The babies were wrapped in the cloaks and the people wore their cloaks right through until the people were actually buried in their cloaks.’

 

 

Starting with white


 

I begin with my body as you do with yours. ‘Even circular maps of the world have blank spots which we prefer to dismiss as the haunts of monsters and other unclassifiable entities rather than beings with whom we must forms a relationship or conduct a dialogue. Bodies themselves, the traditional bedrock of material reality, may be the most alien of dragons lurking on the edges of our known world' (Sneja Gunew, 1991).