Kallista 1957


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Art studios

I make art with Mum.

1959 poster for Bill's studio

Mum works with Bill Onus in his studio down the hill. I watch through the door as she burns designs into wooden boomerangs and cuts stencils for silk screen printing onto fabric. Bill's son is called Lin. He's about my age. We play outside. Mum brings work home and she shows me how to draw with the electric 'red hot poker' she uses to burn designs on boomerangs.


Tiriki Onus, Lin Onus's son, on video
in the First Peoples exhibition, Melbourne Museum

December 31, 2016

This boomerang in the First Peoples exhibition at Melbourne Museum makes me think of my mother, as it's painted with designs that she learnt from Bill Onus. I watch a video of Bill's grandson Tiriki (pictured) explaining how Bill made art not just to carry him, but 'to carry everyone forward'.

Seeing this reconnects me to memories of my mother drawing and painting Bill's designs on fabrics as well as on boomerangs, and memories of her feeling encouraged by Bill to make art.

Since childhood I was told that Indigenous ways of connecting are available to everyone, and that the most powerful way is through the arts. I like how this description of Indigenous experience transcends differences in experience, training and belief.

The "dreaming" is not a set of beliefs which is being lost because it is nolonger valid, it is rather a way of talking, of seeing, of knowing, and a set of practices, which is as obtuse, as mysterious and as beautiful as any poetry...it depends on people living in the country, travelling through it and naming it, constantly making new stories and songs.

Benterrak, K., Muecke, S., Roe, P., 1984, Reading the Country, p. 14, Freemantle Arts Centre Press


Tom's studio, circa 1925.

Tom's studio is in the garden of "Talisman" and I play there with Mum. She makes clag by quickly mixing flour and boiling hot water until she gets a clear smooth paste. We sit together on the studio floor and paste bits of coloured paper onto glass jars. When that's dry we paint black lines between the bits. Dusty old canvas stretchers and tubes of oil paint are scattered about. I get Alizarin Crimson on my fingers and spread little marks on the doorknobs all through the house. I still love that colour.


Albert Namatjira, the Aboriginal artist, goaled for six months with hard labour for supplying liquor to fellow Aboriginals.

On the Beach by Neville Chute published.

Margot Fonteyn toured Australia as the guest of the Borovansky Ballet.

The Australian Almanac, Pub. Angus & Robertson 1985