I spent last week out in the bush with 130 other wild folk. We walked barefoot on the earth, listened to bird song, danced wildly to drums, lay on the grass and gazed up at the trees, visited dragon rock and sat in shelters built with fern fronds.
I loved listening to Elisabeth's stories of growing up in West Papua and learning net making. Elisabeth had an eloquent way of talking about her mothers' hands creating the hand spun string from foraged fibres. These fibres were then woven into nets. The nets themselves were used to carry vegetables and babies. When Elisabeth touches the nets, she is touching her mothers' hands. She very generously shared the hand spun string and her mother's love with us.
Elisabeth took us through the whole net making process. First we attempted to hand spin some yarn she had brought along. Then we used leaves, seed pods, dirt, berries or bark to dye the hand spun string she gave us. Next she taught us net making. Net making is the most difficult craft I have tried. I am still struggling to learn the basic stitch which West Papuan girls master at a very young age.
I have so much respect for these traditional crafts. So much time, effort, skill and experience goes into creating these incredibly beautiful and useful objects. Yet they are ephemeral because they return back into the earth from which they came. As Elisabeth pointed out a net bag won't turn up in an archaeological dig because the materials used to make it are biodegradable.
When I heard we were going to create a group painting with Nathan I couldn't imagine how a group of people could create a cohesive painting, Frankly I thought it was going to end up as a dog's breakfast. Nathan, however, led our group to create an incredible art work that was both beautiful and whole. The adults created the orange/yellow painting on the right and the kids created the purple/blue painting on the left.
He shared the story of his life as well as his journey as a painter from graffiti artist to full time painter. The u shapes in the paintings represent the people at the camp - each person there painting their own u. Nathan painted the backgrounds. For the kids he chose a creek because they adventure by the creek with the mentors each day. And for the adults, the meeting place because it is where we sit in circle each morning and share our journeys. Nathan taught us some basic symbols to use in the painting and then left us to choose colours and add our marks. While we painted he chatted and gave direction.
Nathan had a spare canvas in his car and whipped up the painting of the yellow tailed black cockatoo. These beautiful birds graced us with their presence, flying above the camp and perching in the trees above our tents. I am in awe of Nathan's talent as an artist and feel so blessed to have had the chance to paint with him.
It was a week of magic and I can't wait to go back in autumn.