Arts editor HELEN MUSA shares a week of arts in Canberra
Brown, who lives is Alice Springs, has been exhibiting her own paintings in Australia’s capital cities for more than 30 years, but painting is just her night-time job. By day she runs the Western Desert Dialysis Program known as the Purple House, which runs clinics in the remote parts of Australia so that Indigenous people whose kidneys have failed can at last get back home to their own country.
Many of those who use the services are formidable artists, some of whose work are now on display and for sale at Kyeema Gallery at Capital Wines in Hall.
Brown points out that increasingly more and younger, Indigenous people suffer kidney failure, and have to go onto three times a week dialysis in order to stay alive. For those living in the central and western deserts, the area stretching from Alice Springs south into SA and west into WA, this means moving off-country, leaving their home and family, their land, community, and cultural obligations, and moving permanently to Adelaide or Port Augusta, to Perth or Kalgoorlie, or into already-crowded Alice Springs.Back in 2000, a group pf frustrated artists from Walungurru and Kiwirrikurra developed four collaborative paintings which were auctioned at the Art Gallery of NSW, raising over $1 million to help set up dialysis centres out bush in their own communities.
This showed clearly how motivated Indigenous people can be in dealing with their own problems themselves, but the results have proved that community-based dialysis can prolong life and health of patients at a lower total cost than city-based clinics.
Brown, as CEO of Purple House, manages this huge enterprise of more than 14 remote dialysis clinics and a mobile dialysis unit called the Purple Truck, which also offers social support and aged care services in some regions. She began painting to “switch off”, but it has become a more consuming passion.
“It is my balance, my recreation, my addiction,” she says, “but I live in a part of the country where many people paint… Their paintings are imbued with stories, with tradition, with meaning… Mine come from a long tradition of European landscape painters.”
For Brown, each of her paintings holds memories of trips with Indigenous friends back to country, of picnics and afternoon walks, visiting our nurses and dialysis patients out bush, even of an old blue ute at the Kintore tip.
Rotary clubs in Canberra have supported the Purple House over the years both with funds and contribution of time and effort, but Brown too has contributed by turning her passion into profit, selling her paintings and those of central and western desert Indigenous artists.
All proceeds from the Kyeema Gallery exhibition will go to support Purple House dialysis centres in remote communities. It’s a good news story of the happiest kind.
“Home to country”, works by Alice Springs artist Sarah Brown and Indigenous artists of Central Australia. Kyeema Gallery, 13 Gladstone St, Hall Village, July 26 –August 26. Official opening 2pm Sunday, July 29, all welcome. All works are for sale.