Maitland Hill’s Art Exhibition showcases the seasonal lifestye of the Nyoongar hunter-gatherers in Western Australia. He celebrated his work, visions and aspirations with partners and supporters in Dwellingup on Saturday 16. Nov.
In contrast to the ‘classic’ four seasons aligned with the Earth’s orbit, many Aboriginal cultural groups, including the Nyoongar people in WA’s South West region, celebrate six calendar seasons which are not strictly anchored to dates, but to the forces of nature.
“I have chosen to feature the Nyoongar Six Seasons in this exhibition to show how my people lived a sustainable life in harmony with Boodja (country). We lived according to a changeable six seasons weather pattern that dictated where the most abundant food source would be. Our spiritual connection to our land and the animals ensured that we only took what we needed, so that we maintained a balance in all things”.
For the Aboriginal people, the importance of environmental land management is an integral part of their culture. Caring for country is intricately linked to sustaining cultural identity, spirituality, history, health and well-being. Maitland’s exhibition illustrates the stories surrounding his strong bond with the land, its flora, and fauna.
Flowering plants and reptiles awaken from the colder months. The Nyoongar people moved to the wetlands as part of their seasonal migration between the coast and the bush. The swamp areas were abundant with birds, frogs, ‘gilgies’ (freshwater crayfish) and plant foods.
Traditionally the fire season, featuring an almost clockwork rhythm of easterly winds in the morning and sea breezes in the afternoon. The country was burned in mosaic patterns, mainly to reduce fuel, increase grazing pastures, aid seed germination and make it easier to move across the land.
The hottest time of the year, with very little rainfall. Bunuru is a great time for fishing the coast, rivers and estuaries. The flowering white gum was a signal to head to the coast and the arrival of salmon marks the beginning of this season.
A break in the really hot weather – this ‘calm’ season is a time of many red flowers. Root bulbs of the ‘yanget’ (bullrush), freshwater fish, frogs and turtles were common foods. As the cooler rainy days begin, this is traditionally the time when mia mias (houses or shelters) were waterproofed and prepared for the winter months.
The coldest, wettest time of year – the Nyoongar people moved back inland and food source changed from sea to land (grazing animals). Alongside its meat supply, the skin, bones and sinews of the kangaroo were used to manufacture ‘bookas’ (skin cloaks) and to fix barbs onto hunting tools.
The start of a massive flowering explosion and the birth of local fauna. Traditionally, the main food sources were land grazing animals including the waitj (emu), yonga (kangaroo) and koomal (possum). As the temperatures begin to rise, the flower stalks of the balgas (Grass Trees) emerge in preparation for the coming Kambarang season.
The Exhibition runs from 8th – 24th November at the MONART Design Studio, 58 McClarty Street, Dwellingup, WA.
Maitland’s business ‘Kaarak Dreaming’ also features cultural tours, native bush medicine, bush foods, forest discovery tours, Aboriginal language, consultancy and ceremony.
“Culture and nature are very important to Aboriginal people, so my work is mostly about landscapes, traditions and traditional images of our people – it is an expression and revival of my cultural identity which I invite others to share and explore with me”.
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