Dotted layers of tradition

Nicolas Rothwell; 16/3/10

It was mid-April 2003 when a young researcher named Judy Lovell first met Kathleen Kemarre Wallace, the best-known artist of Santa Teresa community just south of Alice Springs. The connection forged between Lovell and Mrs Wallace, the name by which the artist is known, was immediate and intuitive. They began sharing stories, impressions and ideas. Their tie deepened into a bond of friendship. Lovell became the long-term art co-ordinator for the little community, which specialises in intricately designed and brightly coloured ceramics and works on canvas. Gradually she grew to be the principal recorder of Mrs Wallace’s memories, reflections and epic tales. The two decided to begin working on a bilingual book project, in English and Mrs Wallace’s Arrernte language, and majestically illustrated, binding art with country, individual artist with old tradition. Listen Deeply, Let These Stories In, published late last year by the Alice Springs-based IAD Press, is a striking production: a kind of multimedia art project in print, complete with photographs of rock engravings and sweeping desert landscapes, accounts of bush fruits and weather phenomena, and an accompanying CD that captures the rise and fall of Mrs Wallace’s voice as she recounts the fine details of her story cycles.