Sunday, June 4, 2023

Country is the classroom

Recent stories

Rod Moss, Alice Springs News

Bernadine Johnson, Ricky Ryder, Aureole Perkins, Therese Johnson and Arthur Webb are wandering in search of the purple-flowered plant awele awele, the bush tomato. Looking for bush tucker was a weekend pursuit.

How gratifying to see these activities continuing apace in the formal structure provided by Children’s Ground/ Ampe-kenhe Ahelh. Its audacious program encourages cross-cultural confidence through inter-generational teaching on their family homelands.

Country is the premier classroom where pre-school kids learn and read Country and culture by seeing and feeling it. They learn their identity, responsibilities, language and relevant stories; art, science and history come in the one package.

Some weekends I’d pack the trailer with blankets, flour drum, tealeaf, billies, and kids, cram the cabin with adults and drive a few kilometres east to search for vine-bearing alangwe/bush banana, tjabe/witchetty grub, antyetyerre/frogs burrowed in creek beds, wild tomato, yam and yalke/bush onion.

Parents and grandparents tended the cooking, heated lengths of fencing wire to inscribe patterns on music sticks, and had the coals ready for the kids’ bounty, or ‘roo if the men got lucky. When my own kids were old enough they joined their Whitegate peers.

For the first time I troweled on thick white latex impasto to enhance the suggestion of the rough and prickly turf those young feet encountered.

White paint characterised many early works in attempts to capture the scintillating luminosity.

This article appeared on Alice Springs News on 12 February 2023.


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