I arrived in Papunya directly from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Papunya is a small remote indigenous community three hours northwest of Alice Springs in the heart of the Australian outback.
My partner Be, an Australian, had worked in remote communities before and from his stories I had sketched together an idea of what community life might be like. I enjoyed the challenge of the remoteness, the cultural particularities and working with children who had such a different approach to things that they made life feel new again. Traditional cultures have always interested me and made my eyes shine – I’ve always thought that they provide a perspective from which we might learn unsuspected things.
What I had not imagined was that Papunya, my first home in Australia, would also become the first home of my son Miro.
As soon as my belly started to grow, people began asking me when we would be leaving. This surprised me because as far as I was concerned Papunya was already my home.
From then on the acceptance of the community became even greater.
This community in the heart of Australia, in the middle of the desert, has been such a fertile land for me and my family. Our son was recognised as a tjupi baby (a child from the honey-ant creation story of this place). He was given a traditional smoking ceremony and bush name, and is related to a special site on this land. Papunya is his country.
As an artist in the 21st century I have been extremely lucky to live with people who carry the knowledge of thousands of generations. Most of the elders were born in the bush to naked nomadic families, now they watch their grandchildren immersed in the latest technologies. Living and witnessing how they relate to each other and how they receive modernity made me think so much about the way we all live.
I’m glad that I could have this experience.
These are some of the observations that I take as teachings from now on:
Great adaptability and patience helps us to deal better with new realities. Being family and community orientated makes us stronger. Maintaining family obligation and kin-ship makes us organised. Being related to our land and knowing our environment’s natural cycles, seasons and weather, makes us survive. Knowing that distance and time are relative helps us remain relaxed.
Just how much I've learnt from the people of Papunya I am yet to fully comprehend, but I know how happy I am in becoming a part of this large family and how much love I have received.
My eyes are now wide open, and for a photographer this is a big gift.
I hope these photos help us to always remember this special time in our lives.
This book is my present to honor and respect each member of this beautiful community.
Thank-you Papunya. I love you.
Papunya Smiles, first launched in Buenos Aires, in september 2014 as part of the Festival de la Luz @Gachi Prieto Gallery
Design and layout: Laura Belvedere
Editorial Consulting: Estudio India
Press/Prensa: ADN Cultura
Alice Springs News