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Menindee Lakes Art Project – Jo Mellor

We’re so excited to be sharing the incredible work of Sydney-based textile artist Jo Mellor who has recently been creating artworks focused on the drought and mismanagement of water in the Menindee Lakes and Darling River regions. The project seeks to raise awareness and understanding of the suffering in regional towns, where mismanaged water has caused environmental catastrophe.

Jo’s three stage art project was set in Menindee, in far west NSW and took place over April 13th to April 17th. The project saw Jo incorporate both custom printed fabrics and remnant fabrics that would have otherwise gone to waste, and we feel so fortunate to have contributed to such a significant art series. The artist herself has shared the blog below which details the three components of this project and includes a series of stunning photographs captured by Jo. Keep reading to find out more about Jo Mellor’s Menindee artworks!

Event One – Textile Installation

 Installing (weaving and wrapping) lycra material around the dead tree

Three women artists from Sydney travelled with me to perform this series of events alongside Ngypampa Elder and Menindee resident, Aunty Beryl Carmichael. We used the fabric offcuts provided by Digital Fabrics for a textile installation on a dead tree on Menindee dry lake bed (the lycra offcuts were fabulous to wrap a tree with).

 Installing (weaving and wrapping) lycra material around the dead tree

For our first event we wrapped a tree that Aunty Beryl had chosen for us to wrap on the dry lake bed. Wrapping a tree with fabric and yarn represents a symbol of comfort and care towards the environment in and around The Menindee Lakes and The Darling River in far west NSW.  The environmental catastrophe in the area includes water mismanagement, where millions of litres were diverted to cotton farms and agriculture. There was no consultation with Indigenous groups regarding the diversion of water.

Wrapping yarn over the lycra material

Over a million fish died in the Darling River in Menindee during the summer of 2019.  This event was due to the stagnant water, which was covered with a toxic blue green algae bloom.  There was not enough oxygen for the fish to breathe because the algae took over the waterways.

Textile installation complete

Another factor that has caused distress for the community is that water licenses are given to anyone willing to pay for them.  Water is taken away from the community and given to people to trade.

Textile installation complete

What is interesting to note is that for the first time in 5 years, Lake Menindee weir opened up and water was released into the bone dry lake only a couple of days after we had installed and de-installed our textile installation on the lake. I feel that Aunty and the installation working in unison really worked to bring water back to Lake Menindee!

Menindee resident Aunty Beryl Carmichael, who is the last Ngypampa Elder, watching over our textile installation

Event Two – Protest Banners

Jo Mellor and the Sydney artist participants Jenny Tubby, Terhi Hakola, Bernadette Facer and Tess Mullins in protest with women from The Barkandji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, Menindee Branch, Cheryl Blore, Barb Quayle and Cindy Bates.

The second event saw textile banners used with the local Menindee community to protest the mismanagement of water in the Menindee region.

Printed and embroidered textile banners and posters on the graffiti bus

When I de-installed the textile installation, I asked the Barkandji River Ranger Co-Ordinator at The Barkandji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, Menindee Branch – Cheryl Blore, if she would  like the leftover textiles and she welcomed them with open arms.

Embroidered textile banner on the graffiti bus

The Sydney women participants and I joined with three Barkandji women to protest next to the famous graffiti bus.  I protested with my embroidered textile banners which I had printed at Digital Fabrics. Cindy Bates, Barb Quayle and Cheryl Blore had their signs up too surrounding the bus. We were women united in one cause!

We protested in unison with the message to bring water back to The Darling River

Event Three – Yarning Circle & Drawing Workshop

Drawing workshop and yarning circle using remnant fabric from Digital Fabrics

Painting using remnant fabric

The third event comprised of a yarning circle and drawing workshop which was held by the banks of Pamamaroo Lake. The event was a collaboration with Aunty Beryl Carmichael and the Sydney women artists and featured textile remnants provided by Digital Fabrics to draw on.

Aunty Beryl Carmichael yarning with Tess Mullins, Bernadette Facer and Terhi Hakola by the banks of Pamamaroo Lake, far west NSW

Painting using remnant fabric

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