Desert, paintings and camping

After my first trip to Uluru, Gerry and I went on our way up north. A little bit further north than initially planned, ‘cause I picked up my first hitchhikers, who had to go to Plenty Highway. This was about 80 km further than my exit, but I felt sorry for them so I figured I could drive another hour. The poor girls wrecked their car by hitting a kangaroo, near Wolf Creek. I didn’t really feel comfortable leaving them on the side of the highway, but that’s what they wanted. So hopefully by now they’ve arrived at the farm where they are going to work for their second year visas. 

I turned around and took the exit to Yuendumu, an aboriginal community, north west of Alice Springs. I was told the road was ‘fairly good’. I don’t know if they considered I do not own a four wheel drive, but that road was far from fairly good. In fact it was so bad that half of poor Gerry rattled apart. He got fixed now, so we can continue our trip happily together. 

I was going to do volunteerwork for a week and a half, in Yuendumu, where the aboriginal artist make paintings. When I arrived, I first introduced myself to Rosie the neighbor. A very sweet, chubby, tobacco chewing aboriginee. After she shook my hand for a good five minutes, I had to pull my hand away to be able to make my way into the art center. Later I found out Rosie was in a car accident, and is suffering from dementia.  She collects everything in and around her house, plastic bags and empty bottles, and we had to make sure she did not take her paintings home, because she’d never bring them back. 

Warlukurlangu, the art center, exist of two work places, a gallery and two outside areas where the artists could paint, sitting on pillows on the floor. Besides me there were seven other volunteers, and we all worked from 9 to 5:30, five days a week. Accommodation for us was provided in ‘the donga’, a caravan with six beds. Before I arrived I didn’t know what to expect at all, and figured there wouldn’t be any signal, washing machines or fridges. It appeared everything was there, even wifi, which I thought was quite bizarre. The little village had three shops, and all of them were crazy expensive. A youth- and elder center, a health center and a school. Every Tuesday they taught Warlpiri – the aboriginal language in this part of Australia- but unfortunately on ‘my’ Tuesday there were school holidays and the class wasn’t on. 

Aboriginal map of Australia

Our working day mainly evolved around ‘serving’ the artists. Bringing them tea, coffee, biscuits and sandwiches (‘too hot!’ ‘too cold!’ ‘more sugar!’). But also mixing the paints, sitting with them and stimulating them while they were painting. Stretching canvas, painting canvasses in the prime colors, sorting out files and adding paintings to the database. I loved sitting with the artists and speaking to them. Even though some of them didn’t speak much or just in Warlpiri. My favorite was Ruth, with her son Cori, who I played with. And another lady, Cheralyn, who was supposed to take me and another volunteer on a hunting trip. We didn’t end up going though, because she’d completely forgot about us.. – culture differences! But it was very interesting to hear her stories whilst she was at the art center. 

  

The volunteers ourselves went camping on the weekend in Mission Creek, very close to Yuendumu. Bonfire with stories and guitar music. We cooked kangaroo tail and potatoes under the sand, and slept in swags under the star sky. 

I’m starting to feel like a local. 

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