Thursday, 2 August 2012

Question Time - who is Sally Clifford?

For this week's Question Time we head deep into Australia's heart to the Kimberley Desert to meet Sally Clifford.  Sally is the Director of Warlayirti Artists in the town of Balgo.  (Google maps doesn't recognise its existence, but if you search for Halls Creek, Western Australia and head south on the Tanami Track, you're in about the right place.)

Sally and I have known each other for a long time.  I remember our first meeting on the steps at high school while we waited to sit the scholarship exam.  We shared various houses for a while in Brisbane and at the end of that, I moved to Melbourne and Sally went to the desert!

Warlayirti Artists are in Melbourne this week for an exhibition.  Sally provides details at the end.

1. Who is Sally Clifford?
I live and work in Balgo which is a remote aboriginal community at the bottom of The Kimberley in Western Australia. I have had the privilege of working at Warlayirti Artists which is the Art and New Media Centre here in Balgo, for 6.5 years.

2. What inspired you to take the job as Director at Warlayirti Artists?
This seems so long ago now.  At a surface level I was keen to have some adventure and while the weather in Brisbane is great.. I needed me some seasons action... so I think living on the edge of the Kimberley and Central Desert met that criteria! Hey the job is the draw card... a great mix of working with indigenous fine art  and community development.

3.  What does "Warlayirti" mean?

It doesn't really have a direct meaning.  It's a dreaming story from the central desert.

4. Describe a typical day at Warlayirti.
There is nothing typical about any day at Warlayirti! But in very general terms we start at 8am...have about an hour of e-mail catch up, cleaning and admin before the doors open to artists at 9am.  For me from 9 until about 11am I deal with an onslaught of all kinds of artists' business: helping with travel arrangements, artists checking if their paintings have been sold, helping with any other money business and constantly answering the phone.  Things ease mid-morning and I can start to get into other management or project tasks. I usually take lunch at about 1:30pm then do an afternoon session of writing - grants, contracts, copyright matters, or financial data entry.  Such tasks are usually littered with trips around the community to do various pick ups, collecting freight off the community truck, fuelling up the vehicles, changing tyres or dealing with any number of community dramas.  That's a day in the office.  Out of the office is driving...1 hr, 3 hrs 8 hrs or 10 hrs are the usual routes.   I usually finish up at about 6 or 6.30pm.

5. What's been the highlight of your time in Balgo?
Ohhhh... the highlight is actually the opportunity and privilege to be a first hand witness into the real lives of indigenous people living on remote communities... understanding the dynamics of what they are dealing with.. away from media stories and prejudice.

Around Balgo, Western Australia

6. What's the most challenging thing about living and working in Balgo? 
Not being able to go out to a Greek restaurant when the urge strikes!

7. What have you learnt about yourself during your time in Balgo?
I have learnt that I tend to throw things - namely the telephone -  when I am frustrated, angry and tired.

8. What have you learnt about other people?
I've learnt that kindness and care are two of the most outstanding qualities of the best people I know.

9. Finish this sentence, "If I wasn't in Balgo I'd be...."
...a lesser person than I am today.

10.  If there was one person in the world you could have dinner with, who would it be and why?
I know saying Nelson Mandela or Hilary Clinton would reflect someone of ethics and intellect, but really, to be totally honest, I'd be stoked to share a pizza and a beer with Kevin Costner. I hear a collective groan, but those who know me will understand. I can see straight through the disasters that are Waterworld and The Postman and really only see a man who can wear linen pants really well and once you get through the silliness of Field of Dreams (it's really just a parable which is quite brave filmmaking) watching Bull Durham and Tin Cup are like free therapy sessions for me. I think I could fill in an evening...

11.  Tell us about the exhibition that's happening in Melbourne this week.
This Friday at 5.30pm at Alcaston Gallery in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.... is a beautiful painting exhibition.. featuring the art of senior painter Helicopter Tjungurrayi and his gorgeous daughter Imelda Gugaman... both paint desert country with strong waterhole/soakwater iconography.  If you think you're not into Aboriginal art.... then get along to this exhibition... and meet the artists and say 'Naparulla sent you'.  (Ed: Pronounced Nap-a-roo-la, this is the name given to Sally by the community.)

Check out Balgo art at:  or visit us on facebook

As I contemplate renewing my commitment to divacultura for another year, I feel excitement and affection.  Thank you for sharing some of your time with me. As a thank you gift - and so I can gain a better sense of who's out there - I'll be giving away a pair of my hand knitted socks to two very lucky readers, where ever you are in the world (ie two readers will receive a pair of socks each).  To be in the running, leave a comment on this post by Friday 17 August 2012, stating why you like reading divacultura. My favourite responses will receive the prize (my decision is final).  Why not take the opportunity to sign up and follow too! 

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