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Home » Water in a Dry Land: Place Learning Through Art and Story » Travelling Water Stories: Badger Bates

Travelling Water Stories: Badger Bates

#Map 7: Iron Pole Bend, Wilcannia

‘Iron Pole Bend, Wilcannia’, is a form of ‘deep mapping’, materialising the relationships between country, water, life forms, representation, and structures of knowledge. The frame of the print does not foreclose meanings but points always to connections elsewhere in the flow of water and storylines.

‘At the Iron Pole, that’s where granny fished, she caught cod and it’s where she seen the Ngatyi. She just told it she wanted some fish, and she pulled in a couple of good sized perch and a cod and she went home. She wanted fish to feed the kids’.

Mapping the great arcs of movement, country and water

We sat with a large road map between us to mark the places of Badger’s stories and artmaking.

The continuous green line, maps Badger’s travels with his grandmother and relatives to avoid being taken by ‘the Welfare’. The dotted red lines follow the line of water stories, of the Ngatyis (rainbow serpents) as they travel through the underground waterways.

On each side of a fine black line of casuarinas marking the line of river, a ragged narrow margin of grey floodplain, and beyond this red ochre earth with its myriad pale veins of water patterned across its skin.

Badger’s ‘really sentimental special place’, the thousand kilometre length of the Darling River from Bourke to Menindee, marked with story places on a satelite map by Sarah Martin using GIS mapping. Our project, ‘Conceptualising Kurnu Paakantji Country’, mapped Badger’s memory stories of moving through country with his Granny.

Water, rock and stone at Peery Lake

‘Well there’s two lots of stories go into Peery, one’s about the two Ngatyi, where they came in, and one’s about Kurlawirra, our dreamtime fella, where he got cranky with the people and blocked all the mound springs up’.

Badger’s first lino print of Peery Lake, a bright day time image, an expanse of white water, four Brolgas dancing and singing on the shore, wings outstretched, fine bird legs bent in movement, heads thrown back in song. Overhead they fly among clouds floating across a daylight sky, to Bringingabba, to the Narran, a line of flight and story.

‘But with this one, where we’ve got the two Ngatyi blowing the rainbow, that’s because they did come in from when they took their journey from Jandara right around and back into Peery, and that’s where the engravings is, where the two Ngatyi come in, the carvings on the rock’.

Badger’s Wilcannia

Ultimately, the town with its grid of streets and houses, tiny on even the most close up map, is not Badger’s Wilcannia.

Mission mob, bend mob, Wilcannia

Badger’s lino print ‘Mission Mob and Bend Mob’ shows the deep horseshoe curve of the river that shapes the most immediate spaces of his growing up. Only the mission houses, and the schoolyard with its school houses, are square, straight and still, structured in the mathematical form of Euclidian geometry. The bridge that crosses the river from the mission to the town is not portrayed because ‘Granny would not let us cross there because we would get taken away’.

I’m sitting there sometimes
on the town side of Wilcannia
Ithu, yuunkuli kulpa kulpa nguku

that means swans flying over
singing out
and water coming down
the Warrego, Paroo, or the Darling
and they going to meet it
that’s why I always put the swans
flying overhead in the picture
they tell you where the water’s going
over there to Nepabunna, Lake Eyre, Lake Frome.

This material is an accompaniment to Water in a Dry Land: Place Learning Through Art and Story.