Transcript of Lynette Wallworth – The Story of Collisions

PRESENTER: So all of my work is based on relationship, real relationship, not a pretend relationship and not a relationship fostered to make a work. So first of all, none of the works that I've made with indigenous communities have I instigated. They've come about because I've been invited and I've responded to an invitation.

I mean, story is crucial and core to human existence. And who owns that story, whose story that is, should be part of all of our ethical understandings. So if you hold a story, you hold knowledge.

So I can't go anywhere and take any story. That's completely against what I think my work is about.

NARRATOR: This is my grandfather, Nyarri Morgan. Nyarri says, welcome, you come from a long way away.

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PRESENTER: Collisions is the third work that I have done with the Mardu people from Western Australia. The part of Australia that the Mardu people live in and have as their homeland is a part of Australia that, for a long time, people weren't looking to go there, to grow anything or to graze anything.

And so that meant that the Mardu people were left alone, they were amongst the last contacted in this country. They had their first contact with Western culture in the 1950s and '60s. So unbeknownst to them, I had worked with the Anangu people in South Australia, where Britain had tested atomic bombs in the 1950s in a remote part of South Australia.

This is also a part of our history, I think, that we don't necessarily know much about. So I was sitting in the desert with the Mardu people, and I was talking about this desert I'd seen in Maralinga, where Britain had tested atomic bombs in the 1950s in Australia.

And one of the women who was sitting around the campfire, they turned to me with this kind of laser-like look and said, oh, you need to talk to Nyarri.

So Nyarry was her husband. I didn't know then the story that I was to find out. All I knew was that Nyarri had some story to do with these tests in South Australia. And that now it was my responsibility to talk to him.

I had been with the Mardu people enough now to know that they interpreted everything in those first moments of Western incursion into their world, they interpreted everything according to what they knew, as we do. When you can't recognize something if you've never seen it before.

So Nyarri told me he'd seen this thing, when he was moving through a hunting route in the South Australian desert in the 1950s. And I said to him, what did you think that was? And he said, we thought it was the spirit of our gods rising up to speak with us.

And then he said, we saw that the spirit had made all the kangaroos fall down on the ground, dead. As a gift, we thought. A gift of hunting, of easy hunting.

So he said, we took those kangaroos and we ate them. And the people were sick, and their spirits left. That was, like, our first exchange. It was this incredible telling of a story which he had held very close to himself for 60 years.

So I said to him, what do you want to do with this story? And he listed a whole list of places where the story was meant to go, including Canberra, and Sydney. But Canberra was at the top of that list.

Unbeknownst to Nyarri, and actually any of the Mardu people, I had a relationship with the World Economic Forum, which has a gathering of most of the world's leaders in Davos in January each year. And the World Economic Forum had asked me to bring them a work. I hadn't yet seen virtual reality, so at the time I heard this story, actually the technology didn't exist to film in virtual reality.

But around 2014, the technology changed, as it always does. And there became the capacity to film in full 360, so that I could put a camera down in Nyarri's world. And you would feel like you were present there. And

In virtual reality, the thing that's really powerful about it is wherever the camera is, you would feel your head to be. So I can look at that camera, and when you're wearing a headset, I'm looking at you. So we carried this very cutting edge equipment into the community and Nyarri told this story.

And he talks directly to you. And he says, look after the land. Look after your life, look after the land, and look after it for the people who are coming. So you have this incredible, perfect, I think, encapsulation of the worst of Western technology not thinking about what's going to happen from this kind of decision we make at a crucial point in time. And set against this Australian indigenous thinking about caring for a place for 65,000 years. And we got to take that work and put it in front of world leaders. And he traveled with us, so he fulfilled his dream inside of that work.

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