Painting Home Project

The Painting Home Project was a large-scale painting project that saw senior Indigenous artists: Larrakia woman Dotty Fejo and Roper River man Les Huddleston working with renowned street artist, Andrew Bourke (Komplex Graphix) and local artists Anna Weekes, David Collins and Jesse Bell to complete nine large-scale artworks at Bagot Community, Darwin’s oldest town camp.

Senior artist Dotty Fejo mentored her niece, Dotti Fejo during this project and Andrew Bourke skill shared with the entire team of artists in particular the lead Indigenous artists and local street artist, Jesse Bell. The project commenced in the first week of July 2015 and ended in November. As a final celebration, Bagot Community opened its doors to the public with three walking tours on Saturday 7 November 2015. Places accumulate history and working with the physicality of the buildings and houses in Bagot was a direct way to work with the people who live in Bagot Community. The Painting Home Project was designed to capture the poignant stories and messages that reflect the collective hopes and dreams of the community.

Original Concept & Creative Producer: Kieren Sanderson

OLD MAN ROSSCO This artwork was done by Andrew Bourke and Dotty Fejo. This artwork is a portrait of Rossi Fejo with goanna totems to each side of his face. The goannas symbolise that he is looking out onto country. Rossi is a very loved long term resident of Bagot Community. Rossi spent time in the Retta Dixon Home and then the Fejo family adopted him. He survived Cyclone Tracey and his endearing face reflects his resilience and spirit, two of the qualities that Bagot Community has shown throughout its history.
KARU This artwork was done by Andrew Bourke, Dotty Fejo, Les Huddleston and Dotti Fejo. This painting features Jordan Cooper who lives at Bagot. ‘Jordy’ is seven years old and goes to Ludmilla School. Karu is the Gurindji word for child and this artwork is dedicated to the children who lived at the Retta Dixon Home, which was established in 1946 by the Australian Indigenous Ministries (previously the Aborigines Inland Mission). Original correspondence explains that the aim of the Aborigines Inland Mission at Darwin was to care for their ‘half-caste’ wards and ‘train them to become worthy and responsible citizens’. The Retta Dixon Home was situated in the centre of the Bagot Community between the hospital and the Bagot settlement and a fence was erected to separate the Home from the rest of the settlement. At the Kahlin Compound, Vai Stanton told how the old tribal women would come up to the fence and call the little children over. When the little children came over, ‘the old women would hold their little hands through the wire and tell them who they were, who their mothers were, where they’d come from, what their skin was, what their totem and dreaming was’ (Gilbert 1978:5-25). In this artwork there is a break in the fence and the hope of KARU shines through.
FRESHWATER MEETS SALTWATER This artwork was done by Les Huddleston and Andrew Bourke. The Bagot Community was originally 300 hectares and ran all the way to the ocean. In 1962 a subdivision was approved seeing Bagot divided up and establishing the Ludmilla suburb in 1965, leaving Bagot with 23 hectares and removing access to the coast. Many of the older residents of Bagot talk about the beach, the ocean and the Ludmilla Creek which was nearby. They have memories of hunting for fish and playing on the beach and in the creek. This artwork depicts the place where freshwater meets saltwater and this is where the powerful crocodile resides. The crocodile is a powerful totem for all aboriginal people especially in Northern Australia. The Larrakia word for crocodile is Dungalaba. All Larrakia people consider themselves to be Dungalaba descendants. In Yolgnu Matha the word for crocodile is Baru and ‘Baru’ is the venerated totem of the Gumatj people.
WELCOME This artwork was done by Les Huddleston and Dotty Fejo, Andrew Bourke, Lil Dotti Fejo and Anna Weekes. This large-scale handprint of the aboriginal flag includes the handprints of Bagot Community members in the fingers that extend into the community. The Aboriginal flag designed by Aboriginal artist, Harold Thomas, was first flown in Adelaide on National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) day on the 12th July 1971. This Aboriginal flag is painted into an open hand as a welcome to everyone coming into Bagot Community. The hand is an age-old symbol used by Aboriginal people as a marker of their presence in the landscape – it signifies that Bagot is first and foremost ‘Aboriginal Land’. This artwork also references the sit-down protests that took place in 1971 and 1973 on Bagot Road where a line of aboriginal people that came from all over Australia stopped traffic. These protests marked significant moments in the Land Rights Movement in Darwin.
HELEN’S PORCH This artwork was done by Les Huddleston. Helen Fejo-Frith’s porch is where a lot of decisions are made. Helen is a respected member of the community and is 69 at her next birthday. She was born in Ngukurr, grew up in Katherine, and lived in Barunga, prior to coming to Darwin. She was also a talented sportswoman and coach, and was the first indigenous woman to coach an AFL team, winning an award from the then Prime Minister Paul Keating for her work. Helen has never been afraid to say what she thinks, or to stand up for what’s right. And it’s that fearless determination which has seen her in leadership positions all over the Territory. She served as President of the Kalano Association Aboriginal Corporation as their community went under water in the Katherine floods in 1998. And these days she’s President of Bagot Community.Helen loves, protects and fights for her community and for her 37 grandchildren and 25 great grandchildren and this work speaks of her determination for her people to be heard.
MY CHILDREN ARE AT THE HEART OF YOUR FUTURE This artwork was done by Jesse Bell and Les Huddleston. Valemina White was born in Darwin and grew up in Bagot. Valemina or ‘Mino’ as she is known is the daughter of Joy Woody and Don White. Mino is mother to many and has been bringing up children since she was a teenager. Mino has brought up over 35 children, two of them her own. This artwork is of children from the community. Mino wanted her artwork to be about joy and the future and her children are both. “It is the children who will look after this place when we are gone and I try to teach them the good way.” Valemina White
MUK MUK SUNRISE This artwork was done by Andrew Bourke, Dotty Fejo, Jesse Bell and Dotti Fejo. This artwork represents the Wanderers Football Club. In the early sixties, the Wanderers Football Club team was known as the ‘Bagot Reserve’ side. “The Wanderers Football Club has been a part of our lives through our grandfathers, fathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, sons and nephews and now that the Wanderers Football Club have a ladies side, all of the ladies that play footy in Bagot play for the MukMuks. The old men from Belyuen Community all came to play for the MukMuks and have made a name for themselves with the club” Natalie Harwood. This artwork of a sea eagle holding a fish in its claws is also the Bagot Community Council logo which was originally drawn by Simon Moreen in the 70s.
MEETING PLACE This artwork was done by Les Huddleston and Dotty Fejo. The Meeting Place is where the Bagot Community Council holds their meetings. This is a wall that faces into the community, which is part of the health clinic that is a very important facility in Bagot. This artwork refers to the 22 different clan groups who currently live in Bagot, with members of the community having contributed their handprints to the work. This traditional artwork features a man on one side holding a spear and a woman on the other side holding a magpie goose. This artwork reflects the northern Australian wetland and riverine ecosystems.
I HEART BAGOT This artwork was done by the kids at Bagot facilitated and designed by David Collins. This artwork is an important message from the community that was brought together during the Painting Home Project, drawn specifically from Bagot Community Council, the artists, residents and other participants that were involved in the project.