About Authority, Authenticity and Spiritual Awakening
Patsy Mudgedell is an artist from the Warlayirti Artists community. In this interview, she reflects on the importance of authority and authenticity in the passing on of stories and the care of the land. She discusses her art and what she describes as this time of spiritual awakening. Patsy talks about her belief in the Lore of Love.
I'm Patsy Mudgedell. My family moved around a lot. When I think of country I think of a lot of places. We're from (Yar-in-bupin), my grandfather's place. But we're also from places like Sturt Creek, Billiluna, Balgo. These are places in the desert. I think things were very different back in the days before borders came in. That affected things. It would have been a lot different in those early days.
The Land Takes Care of Us
I have a really respectful comprehension of the land and how it takes care of us as humans. My personal artwork has that message of respect for the land. It is about how the land looks after us, looks after me. In turn it has to be looked after.
An Artwork Shows Respect
An artwork is a good way of showing that respect. It's alive like we are alive. Growing up in those tribal places I've learned that the land is special in the sense that it is not what it seems. There's a lot to it, the land can talk to you. The land can have a relationship with you. It does make you what you are if you tune in with it. This is a good thing. It takes care of humans and humans can take care of the land. It's an active thing. This is why people have a duty of care to their areas. They have a responsibility and with that comes authenticity.
Authenticity & Who Should Speak
Authenticity allows an individual to talk about an area, wherever that may be. This is on the Aboriginal side of thinking and way of doing things. You'll hear people arguing. That is because they argue about who should be talking and who should not be talking. Those arguments work out who has the authority. This is a complex area with many interwoven threads to it. This is a serious business. A lot of times I see people who are far too flexible when there should be a lot more respect for how the land takes care of you.
Duty of Care
You have people who have an authenticity that comes from a long, long time ago. They have that duty of care that is special. I see a lot of people talking about their land or country but not as they're supposed to. It not done with authenticity. What is happening is that people get trigger-happy, if that is the correct phrase. They get trigger-happy to speak up for this land, that land, that country. I would question, has this been authorised by whoever for that person to speak? Has it been through the proper process? I know things aren't perfect. But when things are done properly they turn out to be a good thing. Whether it's for Indigenous or whether it's with white people. Things will come out really good when people follow the right respectful process.
Art From An Authentic Perspective
I see myself as an authentic person. That is why I work the way I do with my art. It's authorised. It's authentic. It is not an artwork that I stole or borrowed. It is how it is.
I think my artwork gives people that freedom to feel that this is an authentic perspective and authorised sharing. My art is entering their life through a cooperative process. They can have faith that they are doing the right thing. They share, I share, we share. That's how things work out properly.
Not Every Aboriginal Person Has The Same Authority
I'm not into the idea that there is one persona for an Aboriginal person where you can assume people are the same. As a visitor you can't assume that people have the same knowledge or authority - the same authenticity. Some people will have a family history and they will be the appropriate people to tell those stories and care for that land.
You've got to be really careful about how you find out information. If you want your thing done properly, you've got to have the proper information. This is because it will affect your work and how it will be channelled through.
If people take the time to do things properly they will get a good result. It will be beautiful and it will have a love factor.
If it's not done in the right way an odd thing happens. The land's not going to cooperate with any person where the right motive is not there. If they bring an ulterior motive, you can't fool it. You can't fool the country, the land. I'm talking about the stories. When an authorised person gives you the stories, it comes out as the proper stories that you want or anyone else wants. Those stories will come out regardless of what they are. They might be scary stories or just stories of the land and its secrets. They will come out in a non-violent way.
About Spiritual Awakening
I see this as a time of awakening. I see myself as being in that awakening. This is not just with Aboriginals. It's got to do with our humanity. For Aboriginals and other people as well. It's a spiritual awakening of humanity in general. I think that we're in this awakening time. The people who are not awakening, they're going to be quickly awakened. It's like the awakening is happening and it's a really good thing. It's good for all of us people, humans, and other creatures or whatever that lurk in the country.
Everywhere there are a lot of other creatures too, in the land. They look like Aboriginals, but they also look like other creatures. This is mystical. All that stuff could come out easily. I would love to work with people to get all this sort of stuff out. A lot of people hide, they don't want to take on the challenge of all of that. I do.
A Cultural University
I went to university in the cultural sense. I went to a really high level of university in Djaru. I learned facts. I have that credibility. A lot of people don't. This might sound boastful, but it's a factual statement. That's what I tell people all the time. I have that qualification. I learned. It doesn't matter what your skin colour is. Colour can fool people. It doesn't necessarily tell you what is important to know about a person or their knowledge.
Taken Into Care At Two
As I'm finding out now, I was one of the children that people thought they could do anything to because I look different. I still am different. It's not that I'm really different, it's that society people have made it up that I look different. It's that level of awakening we're in. If people get under the awakening really quickly, they'll see that I'm no different to themselves. I was a court-ordered child who was removed from my family. I was about two years old when I was taken from my family. I was in my twenties when I was reunited with them. We are still trying to reconnect with everyone.
The Lore of Love
We were controlled by the Catholic nuns and Catholic priests. The nuns and the priests had a different sort of perspective from my family. But they're not so different. There was a spirituality thing there going on if that's the correct word. My grandfather went from his homeland to other tribes and he taught people about the Lore of Love, which a lot of tribes don't have. They have a serious sort of culture. My grandfather went without restrictions to any tribe and taught them attributes. He was part of the Freedom Day in Wave Hill. It was not in the big publicised papers. It's not in all that. No one knows about my family. No one knows who they are. The Lore of Love, the lore of happiness. That's what my family taught other people.
Note: Lore of Love - Patsy isn’t referring to Christianity, it means the ancient Tjukurrpa (Dreamtime). Patsy's Grandfather travelled around teaching people about this Tjukurrpa, and she is continuing that tradition.
When I was growing up, I knew there was this thing going on about Aboriginal culture. About all that. Our values were kept alive because people were all in these institutions together, in a sense. When I got reunited with more of my family in my twenties I got to learn a deeper level of knowledge about my country and my land. If people are buying my art, they need to understand and feel confident that I have the authority and the knowledge to put forward this story. They should feel good about that because that's a positive connection. It's a sharing thing, it's theirs and it's mine.
Interpretation & Awakening
In my art there are allowances left for people to give their interpretation of what that artwork is about. It's not just about me. People who get my artwork need to have that space to be able to interpret it for themselves. It's a continuous flow, it's evolving. They are going to continue with whatever they are going to do with that. It's a continuous flow of positivity and awakening.