Tura acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn and create. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. With solidarity and friendship we say thank you.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that the Tura website contains names, images and voices of people who have passed away.
The flightpath from Perth to Newman offers an expansive view of Western Australia’s interior topology of abstract geometry and spatial relations devoured by time and eroded by climate. A patina of red dust greets me upon landing, lightly covering the regional airport, and eventually settling in the back of my throat. A feeling that would persist for the two weeks I am here. I’ve travelled to Newman as part of Tura and Martumili Artists collaborative project Kulininpalaju, working with Martu artists and based at the East Pilbara Art Centre, an impressive multipurpose steel building in which various cultural activates occur including exhibitions, workshops, painting, gathering and public events. It is my first time in the Pilbara, and I cannot help but be impressed by the industrious nature of Newman. BHP’s Whaleback Mine – the biggest open cut iron ore mine in the world – is only a couple of kilometres from town centre.
From Radio Hill Lookout I view plumes of red dust emerge from the crest of the mine like a smouldering volcano. Surrounding the mine are vehicles and infrastructure of enormous proportions, purposefully designed and implemented to maximise the yield of iron ore. I feel very small in this supersized part of the world. I soon become aware that The Pilbara has a unique geology dating back 2.5 – 4 billion years, produced through a process of gravitational overflow in which assorted rocks and minerals fused in unique ways while the Earth was still forming. It is one of the oldest blocks of continental crust comprising granite domes laced with dark belts of volcanic and sedimentary rocks. This explains the otherworldly nature of the environment which resembles Mars more than it does Earth.
My two weeks in the Pilbara offers a unique opportunity to get to know Martu artists and observe their painting practice in which different features of the surrounding landscape are expressed through the deft use of colour, form, and repetition. I use their lexicon of dreams to guide me in the field where I focus on the sounds of industry, nature, and atmospheric events. I soon get in the habit of recording between dusk and dawn in a place that never sleeps to register localised sound events unique to this part of the world. The dense implementation of mining operations throughout Newman and its surrounding environment means I can never quite escape the vivid sound of industry regardless of how far I travel. Rather than ignore these persistent sounds, I end up tracing them back to their source – the mines, the vehicles, the trains – to explore ways in which these sounds play across the landscape over vast distances. In this way I seek to create a conversation between the anthropogenic and the natural to reveal the complexity of the soundscape that occupies this ancient place.
20 September 2022
Images: Philip Samartzis