The Saltwater Country project began in 2009 when Sally Mayman and Dale Kentwell, both Northern Beaches artists collaborated on a project in the Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome, Western Australia. After returning from a long family journey Sally had been particularly taken with the local indigenous communities in this area and wanted to explore a unique lifestyle that was apparent and very moving for her. Dale had also spent an extended time traveling in this country, a project that culminated in a book " Mum Speaking Latin with a Singlet Tan " (2009) Interactive Publications. Sally explores connection to country in her photographic work and the sharing of culture and stories. Dale an environmental artist explores ideas of reparation and regeneration in her work with close links to the landscape and remnant bushland.
The two artists discussed ideas behind their passions and what they could bring to the collaboration. At the same time the Dampier Peninsula became the site of a proposed gas hub, which was a huge concern for many of the local peoples. At a Wilderness Society talk in Sydney they met community representatives who embraced the idea that the artists should travel to the communities to share stories. With a Seed Fund grant from the Australian Geographic Society....the journey began.
When Sally and Dale arrived and began working, their initial ideas for the project had to be seriously reviewed and re worked as they became aware of the divisions that the proposed gas hub had created within the community.
The artists were welcomed into many homes with lots of talking about issues that were important for the local people. They spent their time with different families and individuals learning about this beautiful and unique part of the world. Sally with her cameras, documented people and country through portraits, patterns and landscape, and Dale, sketching people and country and researching the local bushland areas and language.
An important part of the journey came with Sally running Photographic workshops for the Moran Arts Foundation in the local schools which Dale enjoyed being a part of. This added another rich layer to the experience.
Both artists explored the idea of text based works which conveyed a connection to country. A theme that became apparent throughout the discourse. The resultant exhibition became "Saltwater Country" and was on show at the Manly Regional Gallery as part of the Guringai festival in 2010. The exhibition became part of the inaugural Save the Kimberley Campaign, was shown as part of the Head on Photographic Festival and was a slide show for The Walkley Awards. ( 2011)
Sally Mayman and Dale Kentwell are currently seeking funding to return the exhibition to Broome and to produce a book which would be a wonderful educational resource for school students throughout Australia. Profits of which would go back to the community for an arts based project. The artists aim to include the local people in the collaboration and support the local communities.
The artists are keen to keep the exhibition together and are open to offers from interested bodies.