Even before showing my collection of “The Aak Puul Ngantam Stockman” portraits at exhibitions in Sydney (Head On Photo Festival), Darwin (Proof Photojournalism Festival) and Cairns I was toying with the idea of taking it back to where the photographs originated – Cape York Peninsula and the indigenous township of Aurukun.
To most of the subjects in the portrait collection, Aurukun is their home and it is also the home of APN Cape York – the indigenous corporation that is responsible for the mustering operation that I witnessed and recorded originally for stories in ‘The Australian’ newspaper.
It seemed only fair that the people involved in the venture and their families, friends and Wik clan members in remote Aurukun should get the chance to see the photographs.
A chance encounter with Juliana Doupe from the Apunipima Cape York Health Council at my exhibition at ‘The Tanks Arts Centre’ in Cairns in February set the project in serious motion. Juliana showed great enthusiasm for the idea and for the next few months was tireless in her attempts to help make it work. Nothing happens easily in the ‘fluid’ Cape indigenous communities but the hurdles were overcome one after the other.
All the work came to fruition this weekend when “The Aak Puul Ngantam Stockman” went back to Aurukun as part of the 2014 ‘Aurukun Day’ celebrations.
The evening of the 110th anniversary of the founding of Aurukun by missionaries was marked in the township centre by the community launch of the excellent Apunipima ‘Hip Hop’ music video starring a wildly energetic cast of locals … and followed by the projection of my APN multimedia video (which can be found on my ‘Play’ web site page or on ‘YouTube’ here). All again followed by much camaraderie as almost the entire community partied and crowded the dusty concrete dance floor at the ‘disco’.
On the second day of celebrations the collection of APN portrait prints were displayed along the wall of the Aurukun retail store … the meeting place in the heart of township … against a colourful indigenous backdrop. Sadly there was one omission from the exhibition. Elder and real gentleman Winston Marpoondin died recently and his portrait was excluded to respect cultural sensibilities.
It was, indeed, excellent to see the photographs ‘back home’ amongst the people of Aurukun and I’m very grateful to Juliana and also Andrew Packer from Apunipima for their invaluable help.
As soon as time permits I will post a new pic essay – ‘Aurukun Day’ – which will document the days activities. In the meantime below are images showing the exhibition as hung in Aurukun (top and bottom of 3) and (middle) locals watching the projected APN multimedia video – captured at a point in transition between one frame and the next.
Images © Brian Cassey 2014