This portrait is part of the Grounded series, produced for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and then toured in Australia from 2015 to 2019.
Jim Crombie is one of the Elders of Wangkangurru country and Munga-Thirri (the Simpson Desert of Australia).
Jim drives me to the spot he was born beside a sacred fish hole. He tells me the story of Kunmurri, the Serpent, who lives in the fish hole and protects the fish. When the Two Boys from the Thutirla Pula story arrived at Ngalpura-ngura (the Fish Hole), they had a corroboree where they confirmed the places and names and set laws and songs for the country. The serpent was invited to stay.
Jim feels distress that tourists now camp here at this sacred place. He continues to smile and engages visitors in welcoming conversation, but the continued lack of understanding by visitors and non-aboriginal residents of Australia perpetuates the health crises and mental health issues of indigenous people. Despite Jim's smile, the displacement and the forced removal of children from their families into missions where language and culture were banned, right up until the recent 1970’s, have ongoing mental and physical health consequences today.
Many Aboriginal people have come back from depression, alcoholism or nervous breakdown, by reconnecting to their land through traditional culture. However, the life expectancy of Australian Aboriginals in remote areas remains significantly shorter than that of non-indigenous people.
The 'Grounded' exhibition addresses issues around the marginalisation of Australian Aboriginal people, their loss of land and language, and how their way of life has been destroyed by a culture with little respect for land and environment. These photographs are paired with stories and photographs from the Gaelic speaking Outer Hebrides of Scotland.