Framing the Festival, Sun May 18

It's a strange transition coming out of Blackstone back to Uluru...takes time to accept the whitefella framework without feeling too wonky. The cruisy road trip out in a comfy 4WD, along the middle road with our fellow artsworkers, gives us a 'gently gently' comedown, stopping to wander amongst a myriad of desert wildflowers and passing through the Ranges in time to catch sunset on Kata Tjuta and Uluru, turning pink-purple in turn through the windscreen. We settle in at Yulara Resort for the night, in time for The Gods of Wheat Street on ABC, thanking our lucky stars for this blessed opportunity that we have each year to reconnect with the Western Desert mob. We sleep strangely in starched white sheets, escaping the air-conditioning at dawn to potter up a dune with a 'cuppa tea', in time to see the sun rise again on the Rock. 

A very loud Gippsland lady in our shared dune space, telling her friend and the rest of the quiet morning Rock watchers, about how the suburbs have reached Berwick, ensures we have no illusions as the frame clicks firmly back into Western whiteman dreaming.
The busy week at Blackstone Festival has flown by, non-stop creating and connecting with kids and women, young and old, artists and artworkers; meeting, talking, sharing, beading, weaving; knots and needles, paint and dots, squeegees and bright colours, long bolts of printing cloth - all the artsworker projects together in the Arts Centre this year - us beaders, Tjanpi Vicki with the weavers and Darren's screen-printing project - something for everyone to try. And they do. By the last two days, the women are moving between each at ease; the long awaited links crafting across mediums, resulting in glass animal eyes and wire woven raffia-bead earrings and pendants; alongside a wonderful array of creatures, curtains, tablecloths and colourful bead adornments. And Gerry has the pleasure of one of the senior men coming in to make his own tiny glass knife pendant, which he gives to his son.
Its been a solid week. New types of artworks coming out of every corner of the Arts Centre, with no pressure to sell. Except of course, they do sell, alongside the paintings. As the diverse and quirky personalities of the community workers and visitors pass through, they pick up on the buzz and the sea container gallery is bustling, the jewellery we're making disappears as fast as it is finished. Everyone takes home a piece, either made by their own hands or together with others, created, commissioned or bought.

Blackstone at Festival time engages everyone in connection; in playing and collaborating with new ideas and sliding sideways out from the frame of every day life. We share the pleasure of witnessing the women dressed up for the inaugural Blackstone fashion parade, overcoming shyness to step out giggling and strutt their stuff to us all before their Kunga Ball (women's night, no men, no way!). Friday night streaming live NG Media-Bush Ska Band night on the oval - the kids and teenagers dancing bum-roll, run-in-run-out, triple flip, flirt giggle grin time, as the young men strutt their stuff on the stage. Its good too (see attached link). There's bush wok community cook-off or sausage sizzle fundraisers every night, and each evening, the lovely mix in our artsworker house, everyone's available ingredients tumbling into improvised dinners, as we rest tired feet, and share decades of tales of working in the arts, in and out of central Australia. Somewhere in the middle of it all, a cutting snark of a politician drops a budget bomb on us all, and the conversations on potential consequences flow long into the night.

By Saturday, the community overflows for the footy carnival. Beaten up windowless Fords and Commodores packed with a tangle of kids' arms and legs, or groups of elbow-slung bearded blackfellas, cruising past hotted-up low-slung black turbo sedans with no wheel clearance, which must have flown here somehow under the full moon the night before. The store is the place to be seen, bursting at the seams... As we relunctantly finish the last of our pack up, the footy coach is down on the podium at the oval, loud speaker up, calling the fellas out of bed: "I tell you straight. You gotta get ready because I'm running this. Cos I ain't doing this again next year. Two choices in life you got - to play or be outta the game. So you make your ideas up and you come along..." We hoist rucksack and toolkit in the car, hug our farewells, swap emails and promises. It's hard to leave...
As the plane takes off from the Centre just now, Uluru slides into the window frame. Behind in the lowering distance, the yellow green red spinifex plains cover the landscape back to the Ranges, and beyond...the 'lovely road' to Blackstone. Its not the first or hopefully last time we get this picture from the Big Sky looking back, but its our last glimpse on this journey, of the vast familiar space, reconnected, to add to the blueprint, as the furnace reignites in our far south-west corner....

from the Big Sky

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