International performer Antony Hegarty (Antony and the Johnsons) will today join Indigenous Martu artists from the Pilbara and leading environment groups for an event at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney where Kalyu, an important Martu painting, will be on display.
Kalyu (water) was painted by nine Martu artists to depict the risks the proposed Kintyre uranium mine poses to the region’s precious ground and surface water.
After hearing people’s concerns about uranium mining while staying in the Parngurr community Antony Hegarty and Australian video artist Lynette Wallworth have lent their support to the campaign.
“The painting is our home, our country. It is part of us. Our country, our homelands are under serious threat from uranium mining,” said artist Ngalangka Nola Taylor.
“We need to tell people that those paintings only exist because of our obligation to our country, it is not a choice to look after it, the country is us - we just have to do it.”
The impact of uranium mining at home and its use overseas places a huge burden on Martu, who have said their custodianship includes responsibility for the uranium after it leaves their country.
“Forever that uranium belongs to that place, underground. It’s poison when you dig it up, when it gets exposed. Like a mother carrying a baby... we are carrying the land, we are that close,” said Martu Traditional Owner Wokka Taylor.
“We hold our children close, our water close, our food, but mainly our water. We look after our water, our main one Karlamilyi... One way, leave it in the ground forever. Old people are less but we have more young people being born. We have to look after them. We are talking up for country.”
The Kintyre uranium mine proposal gained conditional federal approval in April 2015. The proposed mine needs to provide further detailed management plans and also faces a depressed uranium price. The project owners, Cameco (Canada) and Mitsubishi (Japan), have stated that the mine won’t proceed unless the uranium price effectively doubles.
“My current trip to Australia has been very much motivated by my desire to help the Martu campaign against this uranium mine plan. I was honoured to be welcomed by the Parnngurr community and artists and I want to lend my voice and support to help protect country that is very important to my friends there,” said Antony Hegarty, who also headlined the Dark Mofo festival in Hobart.
State and national environment groups have joined the Martu resistance to uranium mining.
“Uranium mining is radioactive and risky and directly threatens country and culture,” said ACF campaigner Dave Sweeney. “We will be actively supporting the community’s call to leave it alone and in the ground.”
Parnngurr community was resettled by Martu in the 1980s as a protest camp against uranium exploration. The community remains opposed to uranium mining in the area.
“It will remain like that, with no mine. That poison is no good,” said artist Karnu Nancy Taylor. “You can’t reverse what the old people have said. We’re going to stop it.”