This photograph is part of the Grounded series, produced for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and then toured in Australia from 2015 to 2019.
Waddis are a rare and ancient desert tree, found in only three locations in Australia. All the stands are on the fringes of the Simpson Desert, separated by hundreds of kilometers. The timber is so hard it damages axes and saws. Waddi wood has Aboriginal totemic significance, and was used by local groups to transport fire.
Thutirla Pula, Two Boys Dreaming Creation story, consists of a series of connected stories about two boys who travelled across the desert from west to east. The story of the Waddis in Wangkangurru country is part of this story.
The boys stayed a night in this spot. When they woke up in the morning they saw tall men all around them with their arms stretched wide (the Waddis). The boys were being challenged for passing through someone else’s country.
Creation stories such as Thutirla Pula serve to map routes for navigation across the country. The stories also helped the Aboriginal people find the water wells and survive in the desert. They provide wisdom and a sense of place, connecting the spirit world, physical world and human world together. Many of the stories cross language groups and also follow trade routes.
Bruce Chatwin in 'The Songlines' comments that "unsung land is a dead land". If songs are forgotten then "the land itself will die". (1)
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.
(1) Chatwin, Bruce, 'The Songlines', (Picador, London 1988) p58.