My memories of my Aunty Emily


Barbara Weir, stories collected and edited by Dr. Victoria King Introduction by Dr. Victoria King

 

When I first met Barbara Weir at her son Fred Torres’ Aboriginal art gallery, DACOU, in Adelaide in 1998, I was hugely enthusiastic yet naive about Aboriginal art. In our first brief conversation I was deeply moved by her presence, her paintings and the life story that she alluded to and I volunteered to help her in any way I could. I returned to the Blue Mountains and a few months later we met again at the opening of a major retrospective exhibition of Emily Kngwarreye’s paintings in Sydney at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and we continued our conversation. Less than a month later Barbara phoned and said that she would like me to help her write her stories for she ‘wanted to set the record straight’.

Barbara and I spent time together in Adelaide, at Utopia, in Alice Springs, Sydney, and the Blue Mountains as I gathered her stories using a tape recorder and a note pad just to make sure that I didn’t miss a word. It is important that they remain in Barbara’s own words to give them the power and authenticity due her. Initially her stories were slow to come. Many clearly brought back painful memories and some she had never previously told before, not even to her own children. Her ease in speaking with me, I believe, came in those early days through her answering my naive questions. She quickly found her voice as she attempted to rid me of my sentimentality and ignorance! Once her stories began, they flowed and flowed, often into the small hours of the morning. Her incredible energy and enthusiasm meant that she was ready to begin again at first light. In subsequent editing I organized Barbara’s often- random memories of barely a few sentences and her longer stories into themes. Her stories are extremely moving and accessible and bring a human voice and understanding to cultural complexities and historical injustices. They also bring highly insightful and previously unpublished information about the life of Emily Kngwarraye.

The process of being a friend and witness to Barbara’s sharing her stories has been a great privilege for me and hopefully has provided some healing for her. They were collected with Barbara’s full cooperation and permission and I am extremely grateful for her friendship, generosity, kindness and patience. I retain the greatest respect for her knowledge, experience and culture; she is a truly remarkable person.




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