12 Feb 2021

Barkly Regional Arts showcased at NAIDOC Week

Is it true that the best things happen by chance? The story of the beautiful hand-painted QSC speakers used at a key NAIDOC Week event in Sydney might convince you of just that!

The first chapter goes back to the Allen & Heath Ampervan on its way to Darwin after delivering musical instruments and audio gear to the Amata Community in South Australia.

Technical Audio Group’s sales manager James McKenna was at the wheel. “Someone suggested I pay a visit to Jeff McLaughlin at Barkly Regional Arts (BRA) in Tennant Creek,” explained James. “So, I did!”


What James found in Tennant Creek was a hub of Indigenous music with the Winanjjikari Music and recording studio, performance space and an abundance of musical talent, enthusiastically managed by Jeff McLaughlin, Regie O’Riley, and Dirk Dickenson.

James was inspired by what BRA was achieving in the community, and when the team clued him in on some of the issues and limitations they were experiencing with audio hardware he offered to help.

Long story short, TAG Cares formed a relationship with BRA and contributed some QSC, Audio-Technica, and Allen & Heath gear to help with their programmes.

Six months later in early 2020, TAG’s Director Maxwell Twartz was making his way back from Alice Springs after participating in the project that recorded the Musgrave Band in Amata.

“James suggested I take a one-thousand-kilometre side trip to Tennant Creek to see Jeff,” said Max. “So, I did!”

As well as being a hub for musicians, BRA’s remit is to provide an interface between Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures and showcase the amazing artistic talent of all genres across the region.

All up, BRA represents around 120 visual artists, 300 musicians, 50 traditional dancers and 20 writers. The region encompasses 350,000 square kilometres of the Northern Territory and parts of it are as remote as it gets.

Most of BRA’s activities are based in Tennant Creek but there are several remote creative sites.

The BRA visual arts programme was coordinated by French national Georges Bureau. As well as conventional media, Georges encouraged the artists to use everyday items as canvases – think car bonnets, exhaust pipes, and guitar bodies.

“The guitar bodies in particular triggered an idea for Max and he asked me if we could explore the possibility of commissioning two of our artists to paint speakers,” said Georges. “So, I did!”

Heather Anderson and Susie Peterson were both interested in exploring the brief of making two QSC speakers look just as vibrant as they sound.

Heather, a Warumungu woman, is one of the Tartukula artists based in Tennant Creek. Susie is from the Alyawarr language group and one of the Epenarra artists based at the very remote settlement of Epenarra.

It is best reached by turning east off the Stuart Highway not far from the amazing and culturally significant natural rock formation known as Karlu Karlu (the Devil’s Marbles). It’s a rough, tough dirt road for 200 kilometres with plenty of dust, potholes and bone rattling corrugations.

Georges had a trip to Epenarra already planned so took a speaker with him. Susie has participated in exhibitions both in Australia and internationally and paints in a very refined landscape dot style with elegant brush strokes.

She chose a bush tucker theme for the speaker. Because the perforated nature of the speaker grille was not compatible with her dot painting, she chose to paint all the other surfaces, which truly brought the speaker into three dimensions, making it more like a sculpture than a canvas.

The result is a beautiful depiction of the fruits, nuts and seeds that are freely available in the bush.

Heather was inspired to paint a Barkly regional landscape that wrapped a comprehensive story of the lands around the speaker. It includes an Australian bush scene featuring a kangaroo and a lizard, and a pastural depiction with cows, fences, water tanks and a drover in a big hat.

Spread throughout the landscapes are trees and mountains, some with clouds and rain, and red-dirt roads with folks bumping along in 4WDs.

A world away in inner-city Sydney, at around the same time, TAG Cares was busy helping The Glebe Youth Service (GYS) with a new music programme. GYS is an institution in the inner west and a friendly, comfortable place where kids aged 12-24, many of them Indigenous, can hang out after school or work, and participate in a variety of programmes.

From sports to art to food to fashion, there’s always something happening at GYS and Michael Coleman, Programme Manager, was keen to add a music production and content creation programme which, via mutual friend and music producer Chris Hamer-Smith, is how TAG Cares got involved.

“TAG Cares provided us with some great audio gear to kick-off the programme including Audio-Technica microphones, headphones and turntables plus some QSC speakers.

“Oh, and they asked us if we could use two hand painted speakers from Tennant Creek for any of our NAIDOC Week events,” said Michael. “So, we did!”

NAIDOC Week is the biggest week on the Indigenous calendar and an opportunity for all Australians to come together to celebrate the rich history, diverse cultures and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

For 2020 GYS had a full programme of presentations, music performances and community events and the painted speakers were central to much of it. The musicians enjoyed playing through them and many of those attending spent time admiring their beautiful and unique painting.

Glebe Youth Service music programme performance for NAIDOC Week with QSC art speakers

Heather and Susie were delighted to see their work on display in Sydney and, through a humble pair of powered speakers and a sequence of open doors, a line was drawn between Glebe and The Barkly.

Sometimes the best things do happen by chance!

TAG acknowledges the traditional owners of the lands and waters where we work and live. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and we celebrate the stories, culture and traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities who also work and live on this land.

See also:
QSC Australia Reveal First ‘More Than A Black Box’ Collaboration, CX Network News, April 1, 2020

Fifth ‘More Than A Black Box’ Collaboration, CX Network News, Feb 12, 2021

CX Magazine – February 2021   

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