Love of language in new exhibition opening Sunday

Ngala Wongga opens Sunday Dec 8 at the Margaret River Gallery at 10am. Welcome to Country will be delivered by Zac Webb at 10.30am. Image - Martine Perret
Ngala Wongga opens Sunday Dec 8 at the Margaret River Gallery at 10am. Welcome to Country will be delivered by Zac Webb at 10.30am. Image - Martine Perret

To coincide with the International Year of Indigenous Languages, South West photographer and artist Martine Perret will launch a new exhibition and book of aerial photographs and Indigenous Elders portraits with mixed media language from the Goldfields region of Western Australia.

Ngala Wongga (come talk) comes on the heels of the landscape exhibition Gungurrunga Ngawa (Look Above), before Perret decided to take the project further.

"The project developed over 18 months, during which I drove over 25,000km - between my home in Margaret River to and from the Goldfields' towns of Kalgoorlie, Norseman, Laverton and Wiluna - and spent five months, on and off, on the ground with local Indigenous Elders, gaining their trust, listening to their stories, recording and photographing," said Perret.

"I came to appreciate how intertwined their language is to the land and to their cultural wellbeing; and I glimpsed the ominous impact of when a language dies out."

The artist said the time spent on the land, in the skies and on the road only served to stoke her passion for a wider project as it took shape.

"Initially I wanted to call the book 'Talk to me' but on a visit to Kalgoorlie in 2015, Gary Cooper's mother Laurel Cooper and her friend Josie Boyle suggested 'Ngala Wongga'.

"It means 'Come Talk' in Wangkatha. 'Talk to me' was hard to translate in their language and 'Ngala Wongga' made more sense to them. And so the title was chosen in the very early days of the project and my visits to the Goldfields."

Initially opening in 2016 at the Kalgoorlie Goldfields Arts Centre, the multi-sensory installation exhibition travelled around Western Australia and opened activities for the 'Year of Indigenous Languages' at the Australian Embassy in Paris.

Perret said the book, meant as a snapshot of the entire project, would allow a wider audience to appreciate the Ngala Wongga story.

"It was the result of many collaborations, but most importantly with the local Indigenous speakers - who gave of themselves and told their stories of land and language. I am delighted that the Ngala Wongga story and, inherently, the plight of these Indigenous languages has been shared with many."

Ngala Wongga opens Sunday December 8 at the Margaret River Gallery at 10am, with Martine Perret onsite to discuss the works.

Welcome to Country will be delivered by Zac Webb at 10.30am.

For more information visit www.margaretrivergallery.com