Bandalang Studio is excited to annouce the acquisition of sculpture “We Were Free Before” by Ngaanyatjarra artist Patrick Green#

There’s a story behind our hero banner image for this website- a sculpture which represents a feat of engineering, Indigenous knowledge and collaboration between two cultures that saw these water pumps installed in the mid 1980’s.

‘We Were Free Before’ - Water Pump (Patrick Butler) 2017#

This artwork enitled ‘We Were Free Before’ highlights the incredible labour for Aboriginal land rights which continues today. In the mid 1980’s Patrick’s grandfather Antjatjari Tjakamarra fought to get an outstation established on his country, Kurlkurta. His dream did not eventuate but he managed to get a number of bores sunk and hand pumps installed en route to Kurlkurta, without which Patrick and his family would not be able to visit their sacred country today. Patrick and his brother Winston continue the campaign today to build an outstation on their grandfather’s country. As the first grandson and primary heir to Kurlkurta, the ability to access his country is vital to Patrick in honouring his heritage.

In homage to his grandfather’s important work, Patrick has created a salvaged metal sculptural interpretation of the hand pumps, which mark the journey to Kurlkurta. The hand pump embodies access to water, to country, to ancestors, and to home. It is covered with markings of the journey to Kurlkurta and shows the convergence of Water Dreaming, the impact of colonialism on access to country and the technology which connects past and future.

“Before contact we lived under the law of the Tingari. When we journey back to Kurlkurta now, there is a great tension in the car. Everyone becomes overwhelmed and cries. We mourn our ancestors and the loss of our way of life. Before there was money and possessions, even before there was time. As the first born grandson I am a Traditional Owner of this land. Going home to Kurlkurta I can reconnect with my past. I feel free.”

Patrick Green Bio#

Patrick is passionate about his Ngaanyatjarra and Pintupi heritage. Patrick spent his early years in Alice Springs, until his family moved north to Bachelor, a small town in NT. After completing high schooling in Darwin, Patrick went on to complete an apprenticeship as a boiler maker. He returned to his Mother’s country in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands to learn about and support his family and culture. Patrick was living in Kiwirrkurra for four years before moving back to Tjukurla in 2016

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