Megan Lewis: CONVERSATIONS WITH THE MOB
Head On Photo Festival 05 - 20 May 2012
Exhibition opened by Ray Martin, Journalist and Television Presenter.
In 2002, Walkley Award-winning photojournalist Megan Lewis went to live with the Martu people - one of the last Indigenous groups in Australia's vast Western Desert to come into contact with Europeans. Through stunning photographs and oral stories, CONVERSATIONS WITH THE MOB captures the beauty, humour and friendship of an Aboriginal community at odds with Western culture.
"Whitefella do more study of our dreamtime than us, we just living it." Nola Taylor
I've been thinking about these photos you've been taking. When I first saw them they made me feel funny inside. I been thinking they no good, she wrong to be taking these photos because they showing Martu inside our houses. Outside people shouldn't see us like that. After a while I thought about what was upsetting me.
What was upsetting me is that it showing my people inside, and it made me think, am I looking after my old mother properly, am I doing the right thing?
Now I see what you're doing.
Your photos are making Martu look at themselves and think, what are we doing? Where are we going and are we doing the right thing?
Now I see why you have to do this, because Martu have to look at themselves.
"Taking a picture is hardly ever a simple act, often the difficulty arises from complex cultural thinking and shyness, other times it simply boils down to the fact the Martu are never switched off to their surroundings. The desert doesn't suffer from background noise and the release of a camera shutter draws as much attention as a shot from a high powered rifle in the dead of night."
CONVERSATIONS WITH THE MOB, Megan Lewis. UWA Press 2008, page 17
Conversations with the Mob is an intimate photographic portrayal of the Martu Aboriginal people, one of the last Indigenous groups in Australia´s Great Sandy Desert to come into contact with Europeans.
When the Mob allowed a whitefella – photojournalist Megan Lewis – to come and live with them, the understanding was she was there to take photographs to share with outsiders. But as two and a half years passed and Megan absorbed herself in the Mob´s way, it became apparent that the project was more than a book or an exhibition… it was a journey of marpan (healing) for whitefellas and Martu alike.
Conversations with the Mob captures the reality of a traditional people who live neither in their old world or in a white world. Through photographs, oral stories and Megan´s own experiences with the Mob, the viewer enters the reality of desert life where health, grief, footy, humour, sorry business and spirits consume daily survival.
In 2005, Megan´s images of the Martu won a Walkey Award and was also voted winner of the Nikon Australian Photographers Choice Awards 2006.
Megan has a strong personal connection with the Western Desert Aboriginal people, spanning twelve years.
It is Megan´s vision that offering Conversations with the Mob to the wider community will help channel support for initiatives into Martu health, diet and lifestyle.
In late 2008, after completing the photographs for Conversations with the Mob, Megan was personally invited by Martu elders to another desert community called Warralong. They sought her help to address concerns about their peoples´ physical and emotional wellbeing in a changing world.
With the approval of Strelley Community School Principal Kate McKenzie, Megan set up a Healthy Eating Program. Up to seventy school‐aged children were moved away from foods high in artificial flavours, sugar, wheat and dairy; within weeks, with breakfast being the main meal of the day, improvement in their wellbeing and school behaviour was noted by teachers and visiting medical staff. The program is still operating at the time of this exhibition.
Megan was asked to go further, working with individuals and groups in the community and school to help with their mental and emotional wellbeing. She says: The aim has been to help create physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy, happy individuals who have the ability to help themselves, no matter what life throws at them.
In addition to Conversations with the Mob, Lewis presented I´m Beautiful, a digital exhibition of recent photographs taken during playful sessions with Martu youngsters from Warralong Aboriginal Community. With the primary aim of having fun and boosting confidence, the children were presented with a box of dress-up clothes and invited to ’be yourself‘ – whoever that ’self‘ might be.
Note: "I´m Beautiful" has not been archived.
Megan Lewis is proudly supported by: