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Heady Matters – Hedy, Eddie, Eva and Emmanuelle

June 12, 2012

Alison Waters - Gemini's Birthday photograph by Jacqueline Mitelman

Mabo – the story of Eddie Mabo’s struggle for Murray Island native title rights was magnificently directed by Rachel Perkins in a two hour TV biography.  Mabo was written by Sue Smith and produced by Blackfella films. It marks the historic decision on June 3 1992 that recognized Aboriginal native title over land in Australia. In this screening the ABC has given us some of the best TV viewing I have seen in recent times. This was a truly riveting and very moving television experience. The two leads Eddie (Jimi Bani) and his wife Bonita (Deborah Mailman) were absolutely outstanding.

EDDIE  MABOEddie Mabo with a brilliant legal team that included the Melbourne QC Ron Castan successfully challenged the fiction of terra nullius which suggested that Australia was an empty place prior to white people’s arrival in 1788.

Alison and Emmanuelle Santos - photograph: John Hoerner

Serendipitously at Hedy Ritterman’s Exhibition earlier in the week I met up with international photographer Emmanuelle Santos who I had not seen in 10 years .since publicizing his Aborginal Genesis Exhibition at the Alliance Francaise in Melbourne.

Emmanuelle Santos is himself a member of an indigenous tribe in the Philippines and has had a long relationship with the Wik indigenous people attending many of their corroborees over many years The Wik elders asked him to photograph the Laura Dance Festival in the 1990s – the resulting exhibition Aborginal Genesis an extraordinary exhibition of 40 black and white photos colored by hand in ochre and blue gray. The Wik people are mainly known for their determination over land rights but these photos depict the celebration of a dignified and very much alive culture.

Emmanuelle Santos - Aboriginal Genesis Exhibition

As publicist for this exhibition I organized a two page photo essay in the Weekend Australian Magazine which was printed Jan 6-7 2001 in a photo essay The Will of the Wik Emmanuelle Santos in August 2012 has been invited to show his Wik photos of indigenous people at the Festival of Light in Buenos Aires Argentina. This exhibition will be hosted by the Australian Embassy.

The Will of the Wik

Hedy Ritterman’s Photographic Exhibition to know a veil, is at the Colour Factory in Fitzroy. Thursday 7th June – Saturday 30th June.

Barcelona 2011Hedy looks at lots of things not least of which is portraiture and the genre of advertising photography “and the billboard as a muse”. She quotes Wolfgang Tillers who states that “photography always lies about what is in front of the camera but never lies about what is behind it.” Hedy believes “the photograph, just like the veil, is a medium of latency – a means of alluding to a concealed vision through its revealed filter. In the sense the medium becomes the message”

We found aspects of Hedy’s exhibition evocative of the subtle images created by Joy Hester in the 50s. She brings together different technologies in order to interpret her subject matter.

Joy Hester - Mother and Baby  - Hedy Ritterman - Freeway

Anyone that follows this blog will have come to know of my passion for the Russian writer Anton Chekov. Anton Chekhov’s short story The Dual has been made in to yet another film by the British, directed by Georgian, Dover Koshashvili .Its now showing at the Nova Cinema in Carlton. The film follows closely the plot of Chekhov’s short story reflecting the stifling morality of the petit bourgeois in a pretty seaside town and the moral equivocation of the main characters.

Alison, Eva Collins and Deck Chairs by Ezra, Artman GallerySunday we went to see Eva Collins captivating photography in Directors Choice Exhibition at Artman Gallery in Caulfield. In Eva’s photo of The Riot of Deck Chairs striped, randomly arranged deckchairs suggests Chekhov’s characters in Chekov’s play The Cherry Orchard, people struggling to forget certain aspects of their past. This particular photo speaks to me emotionally more than words.

This stunning portrait of Vali Myers by Eva Collins is one of two of Eva’s photos accepted in to the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.

Vali Myers 1930 – 2003

Vali Myers by Eva Collins

Vali MyersI first heard about Vali Myers in early 1980s when I was developing the film The French Consuls Wife with Tim Burstall. I had a meeting with Phillip Adams and because my leading character had been a French dancer with the stage name La Mogador he told me about this extraordinary Australian dancer Vali Myers who lived and worked as an artist in Paris. She was part of the French Bohemia at that time mixing with Slavador Dali, Django Reinhardt, Jean Cocteau, Jean Genet and a prickly relationship with Australian artist Albert Tucker.

Vali Myers by Ed van der ElskenVali was born in Sydney and grew up in the New South Wales bush. As a young rebellious child she was dyslexic and instead of reading and writing she immersed herself in drawing and dancing. In 1949 at age 19 she travelled to Paris to pursue a dance career but found herself living on the streets of Saint-Germain-des-Pres Quarter on the Left Bank. In the book Love on the Left Bank 1954 photographs from Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken (1925–1990), document the bohemian life on the Rive Gauche of Paris. Vali Myers is shown throughout the book, along with some of her early drawings.

Outre Gallery - Diary of ValiShe moved with a wild crowd many of whom did not survive the 50s and 60s. She puts her survival down to the pride that she had in her intricate drawings and the joy she took in her uninhibited dancing. She returned to Melbourne in the 1990s, even though her favorite place to work was a little cottage in Il Porto (Italy) in a valley in an extraordinary ravine with 1,000 ft cliffs where she lived in impoverished splendour with her lover Gianni Menichetti and a menagerie of over 100 animals including her favourite animal a fox. The motif of the fox was often used in her drawings, which sold well internationally.

Eva Collins interviewed Vali in an three hour interview when Vali returned to Melbourne They were both wrapped in a blanket sitting on the floor at Vali’s Nicholas Building Studio in Swanson Street. (Eva and her husband also visited Gianni Menichetti in Il Porto)

Vali MyersEva Collins wrote “Everything about her swirls : her flowing robes, her pagan tattoos, her writing, her art. One interweaves with the other, and Vali, with a mane of screaming red hair, embodies them all. How did she get to be like that?

Born in 1930, Vali was brought up in the Australian bush. Her father was a marine wireless operator. Her mother, a violinist with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra gave up her promising career to raise the family and in time her nerves ‘went to bits’. Vali saw her mother’s frustration and felt deeply for her. This had spurred her to develop her own creativity with fierce determination. Freedom is paramount to her. She won’t let men dominate her life and there has been no shortage of them. “Men always have women backing them up. But show me the bloke who back up his woman if she is an artist. They don’t like doing that, makes them feel like they’re sitting in the back seat. If a man is a real man, why does he need a woman to clean for him? He should look after himself, otherwise he should go back to his Mummy!”

Eva Collins - Riot of Deckchairs

Deckchair Riot by Eva Collins courtesy of Artman Gallery

“She was certainly considered unconventional (especially after tattooing her face in affinity to some of her Maori ancestors), although she didn’t see it that way. What I do is my own bloody business” Go to Eva Collins website http://evacollinsphotography.com Writing and Photography for more on the Vali Myers story

Alison and Emmanuelle Santos - photograph: JohnHoerner.com
Alison Waters - Gemini's Birthday - photograph by Jacqueline Mitelman
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