Lake Bonney Barmera – place of large water, 2022

pigment inkjet print on Hahnemühle paper, hand coloured with watercolours and pencils
50 x 175 cm, image size
edition of 5 + 2AP
$8,000 unframed

This image was created at Lake Bonney, which is situated in the Riverland of South Australia, alongside the township of Barmera. The First Peoples of the River Murray and Mallee Region are the traditional custodians of this region and in 2014 they introduced a dual name for the lake incorporating the name Barmera, meaning place of large water.

I used the Rorschach technique to symbolise the majesty of this incredibly important water source. Fed from the River Murray via Chambers Creek at the north-western side of the lake, it is one of only three permanent freshwater lakes in South Australia. A few years ago, I created a similar Rorschach image from a colour negative of the lake that I titled, Oh my Murray Darling. This title is a play on words and a lament to the state of the environment in the Murray Darling basin.

The Barka and the River Murray are the two major rivers that interconnect a multitude of tributaries and lakes known as the Murray-Darling Basin. The two rivers meet at Wentworth and the converging flows bring the waters from the Barka down the River where it flows out to the sea at Kumarangk, which is the Ngarrindjeri name for the Murray mouth near Goolwa in South Australia.

Situated in the south-east of Australia this area produces one third of Australia’s food. It is Australia’s most important water catchment, covering one million square kilometres and is the cultural responsibility of forty different First Nations peoples.

The Barka, along with its lakes and tributaries are in a state of crisis and we need to speak up and protect them. There are many factors contributing to this, including over allocation of water, climate change, drought and most infuriatingly, corruption and greed.

One way we can nurture the Rivers is to humanise them, so they can be empowered to have rights that protect them from harmful human intervention. The portraits of the waterways, including the Rivers, the lakes and the trees, are created as a point of discussion. These photographic works give reverence to our precious waterways and share stories of Aboriginal occupation and ongoing survival on our land.

– Nici Cumpston


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