Martumili Artist Corban Clause Williams has just returned from the trip of a lifetime to Paris, along with five other artists representing Aboriginal art centres across Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Find out what Corban thought about the other side of the world over une tasse de thé (cuppatea)!
Image by Kate Shanasy
Crossing over 14000 kilometres from the remote bush community of Parnngurr, Western Australia, to France’s most populous city and one of the world’s most iconic travel and culture destinations, Paris, is a pretty big deal by anyone’s standards. Make it a first overseas journey, and it’s even more astounding. But Martumili Artist Corban took it all in his stride, happy to be able to represent his elders and Martumili Artists for the opening of Le Chant Aborigène des Sept Sœurs (Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters).
Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters first opened at the National Museum of Australia in late 2017 before touring to Perth and Sydney. The major exhibition, comprising over 300 paintings, photographs, digital media and objects, is showing until 2nd July, 2023 in Paris, before finally touring to Finland between April and October next year. Corban Clause Williams (Martumili Artists), Brenda Douglas (Independent Amata Traditional Owner), Alison Milyika Carroll (Ernabella Arts), Pamela Anawarri Mitchell Brown (Papulankutja Artists) and Tapaya Carberry Edwards (Independent Amata Traditional Owner) collectively made the journey to Paris to represent their respective art centres for the opening of “Le Chant Aborigène des Sept Sœurs” at the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, as well as satellite exhibitions at L’Austrlie en France (The Australian Embassy) and Galerie IDAIA Paris.
Tell us about your trip to Paris!
I was really happy to be in Paris- my first time overseas. I went down there on behalf of the old people, because they had works in the ‘Seven Sisters’ exhibition. So I went on behalf of my elders and to represent Martumili artists aswell. Some other artists were there aswell – we were all representing our art centres.
When we first went there we were funny in our head and body- we got jetlag! We were there for seven days. We went as a tourist too, you know the tourist bus, the tour? Drove around everywhere, then we went to the museum for the opening. Then I went to my exhibition [at Galerie IDAIA Paris]. We had a mixed exhibition, my painting was there with a lot of other paintings. That was really good seeing my painting there in Paris. We also went to another exhibition where it was Warakurna mob, APY exhibition.
Can you tell us about the Seven Sisters exhibition opening?
They gave us translating things in our ears for when they were talking French. Lots of people came to the opening. I just introduced myself, told everyone it was my first time overseas. First and last- I’m not going again! [laughs] Nah just joking! When I first went it was too scary for me. Overseas, long way from home. Plus it was hard to ring back home. But I felt more comfortable after a couple of days.
What else did you think about Paris?
The people we met were really nice. But it was too cold! I couldn’t live there- I prefer Parnngurr! Too many buildings, too many people, and funny money! [laughs] My favourite thing was discovering, checking what the other side of the world looks like. I went there and I was looking- where are all the houses? Paki! (nothing) All apartments.
Are you back in Parnngurr now?
Yeah, I’ve been here for a week or so. First I went to Newman, then Perth, then I came back home then. Lot of travel! It’s good here, good to be home. Now I’m back in Parnngurr I’ll head back to the shed for painting. Back to usual!
While you’re here- we’re super excited to announce Corban has been announced as a finalist in two of the most prestigious award exhibitions this year- the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award (NATSIAA) and the Ramsay Art Prize. You can check out his works at online or in person at The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) and Art Gallery of South Australia.
Words: Ruth Leigh