The Artwork that defines Irrkerlantye, a Learning Centre for Indigenous People, in Alice Springs

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Comments (12)

Ian Stehbens on December 13, 2007

This remarkable work was a community effort by the artists at the Irrkelantye Learning Centre. The background pattern of irregular areas of different colours represents the pattern of the grasslands that have been burnt by controlled fires at different times. This creates this amazing pattern across the Central Australian landscape. The blue areas are very recently burnt, reds and oranges were areas burnt a few months ago and the yellows are the areas of mature grasses in seed and the acacias in bloom. The concentric circles is the Learning Centre where the people gather, having come along pathways from different communities located some distance from Alice Springs, where Irrkerlantye is located. Each community has a different identity, these identities being depicted by the honey ants, the witchetty larvae (nice to eat), desert nuts and fruits. Across the landscape are the tracks of kangaroos and emus. I think you will all agree this is a most remarkable artwork. And I was privileged to be part of the community for brief periods. Ian

Marilyn Whiteley on December 13, 2007

How wonderful, Ian! Thanks for posting it and thanks even more for your explanation. It is indeed truly remarkable--and delightful in colour and form. Marilyn

Ian Stehbens on December 13, 2007

Not bad for a school badge! Much more exciting than the little shields left over from the tragic Crusades of Europe that we had for our school badges! Ian

Тилигузов Сергей on December 14, 2007

This is a real remarkable work. Very thin work. Amazing harmony of color scale and deep sense incorporated in this image enable me to understand how people done it worry for the future of that country in which they live. This is the amazing sample of national creativity. All this emphasizes uniqueness of this image. I'm glad what I has seen it. I thank you for the opportunity given to me to get acquainted with such amazing sample of the Australian creativity.

With the best regards from Russia, Sergej.

Ian Stehbens on December 14, 2007

It is remarkable. It is!! I am glad you see it as remarkable, Sergej. I am so pleased to be able to bring this to the attention of the world through Panoramio. When it is reviewed the reviewer will not see it as a aerial dipiction of the Alice Springs landscape and accept it for Google Earth. But if only he/she might see with indigenous eyes. The dot art style, derives from the fact that in Central Australia many of the rocks are impregnated with hardening iron. This concretion of iron makes them very hard, and the only way traditional indigenous people could leave a message, say an arrow pointing to a waterhole, on such rock was to chip it, pecking out a symbol or message. So dots formed their early art and this has been carried forward to contemporary art when vinyls and acrylics are used. Ian

Ramón Carlos Válor L… on December 28, 2007

Hi Ian. I like very much this picture. The comments is very interesting, and...

...I think you will all agree this is a most remarkable artwork.

Greetings, errece.

© SisAnnick on January 1, 2008

thanks Ian for your last message. We send you our best wishes for a Happy New Year 2008 for you and your family Annick (& Serge)

LEE TUXFORD on January 9, 2008

You're right Ian, this is a remarkable work. I think you were fibbing before - you do have an amazing memory... or do you just take copious notes? I wish I could learn as much from 1 piece of the journey as you seem to.

A.SKINNER on April 13, 2008

This art is so interesting, every picture has a different story to tell, I have a book on the patterns they use. The colours and designs are second to none...Anita

Ian Stehbens on October 3, 2009

Dear Anita and Lee,

I really am sorry - what a belated thankyou for your responses to this image, this is. Forgive me, please.

You both certainly appreciate the art of our indigenous people. The mention of your book, Anita, reminds me of times when I have browsed at books interpreting the patterns and symbols used by other societies such as Celtic symbols and Samoan body art.

There is one outstanding aboriginal artist who has allowed me to become the custodian of one of her most significant artworks, called "Reconciliation Australia 2000". Her name is Kathleen Kemarre Wallace. Kathleen Wallace is the keeper of the stories of her people. She has recently been published as a story teller in Listen Deeply, Let These Stories In by IAD Press, Alice Springs. I believe her book can be purchased over the web.

While there are now a whole group of gifted artists in her community, her work has another dimension for she is able to tell story in her work, whilst the others are creating designs with their media and colours. I am not sure how much there is of her work on the www, but she is one of their greatest artists and a wonderful encourager of others.

I have just found the website, so here's a link for Keringke Arts for which she is the senior artist. Mrs Wallace and the people of her community at Ltyentye Apurte certainly have links to this learning centre, Irrkelantye, in Alice Springs.

Lee, no I don't take notes, but your question has challenged me to answer. I suspect it is not just memory, but engagement with the people and understanding their environment that makes it natural to recall or tell story. I'm inclined to remember anything that has significance for me. Art, environment, people, justice and reconciliation are all for me and they all come together in such a work of art as this one.



Hazel Coetzee on December 17, 2009

This artwork is so awesome and also very humbling, Ian.

A group art effort - these country folk know all the details of their individual environments so intimately that they put the rest of us to shame. In their mind's eyes they know all the exact areas and times of the different controlled fire stages to be able to translate them into different stage colours. It is actually mind boggling to an average city dweller. And what a spectacular group result they achieved. It almost brings tears to one's eyes and I'm ever so glad that you took time to explain the artwork to us so that we could really see it for what it is - an awesome effort indeed.

Warm greetings, Hazel

Ian Stehbens on December 18, 2009

Dear Hazel,

You understand perfectly, ...but then you are one of Bryce Courtney's former compatriots. His writing deepened in me a passion for issues and a love of landscapes of southern Africa, overflowing from compassion for the peoples of that land.

When you come to Australia, you must return home with some special piece of this realm: an item of significant indigenous artwork and a signed print of a landscape photograph... some representations of here that almost bring tears to your eyes or awe in your spirit.

One of southern Africa's artists whose work I love, is Alice Haigh. Her family story is a highly significant one, and her art is deeply expressive of her heritage. We became friends as we lived and taught in the same neighbourhood in North Parramatta, and after I had acquired one of her pieces of work and inquired after the artist for I could see some elements of very powerful significance in that work. On this occasion I wasn't wrong.

Through Alice another thread in my bond with your realm has been created.


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  • Uploaded on December 13, 2007
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    by Ian Stehbens