Floods don’t discrimate. Saving the Warmun Community Art Collection

On the 13 March 2011 after weeks of heavy rain the rivers and tributaries in the east Kimberley overflowed, sending a deluge across the land forming a torrent of water throughout the region. Nestled tightly on Turkey Creek, the Warmun community was ravaged. The community was declared a natural disaster zone and nearly everyone was airlifted from their homes to Kununurra 200 km away. The Warmun Art Centre, which held the Community Art Collection, sustained considerable damage to its buildings, equipment and its artworks. At least half of the items in the Collectin were submerged in muddy flood waters and all sustained mould damage due to humid conditions over the following days. With generous probono support from all around, and in particular from Argyle Diamond Mine and CCMC, and from ANKAAA the collection was helicoptered to an air-conditioned building and into the safe hands of CCMC conservators.  Toll Holdings provided a truck to bring the artworks to Melbourne.

The Warmun Community Art Collection holds the earliest art produced in the Kimberley containing significant works by the first generation artists of the east Kimberley painting movement: Paddy Jaminji, Rover Thomas, Jack Britten, Henry Wambini, Hector Jandany, George Mung and Queenie McKenzie. For many years, elders would congregate under a bough shelter and use these items to teach. The children who were taught with these items are now adults and practicing artists themselves. They too, now believe their children need to be educated in the same way. The survival of these artworks is in jeopardy and the Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation (CCMC) at the University of Melbourne is helping with it preservation. However, support is needed for the Centre to complete work on the most important and most badly damaged works.

From 17 to 21 October community elders will visit Melbourne to advise on the conservation program for the collection. To ensure this collection is returned to its rightful place, your help is needed. A fundraising dinner will be held at University House at the University of Melbourne on 21 October 2011.  Community elders and conservators will talk about the importance of this collection and about the conservation program that will see its safe return to Warmun. Tickets to the dinner are available at $150 per ticket, including three courses and wine. For bookings or information on how you can help support the conservation of this important collection please contact Director of the CCMC, Associate Robyn Sloggett on 8344 6455 or email: rjslog@unimelb.edu.au.