FOR artists Amadis Lacheta and Lee Grant, meeting again at Congo on the south coast was a case of kismet – fate – at work.
For although they knew each other, having schooled at Telopea Park School and Narrabundah College, it took a chance meeting at the home of Congo potter Jim Simms, to set them on a joint mission to unveil the hidden side of life in the Eurobodalla area as they plan to do in the Basil Sellers Exhibition Centre, Moruya from December.
“What makes where we live special, and why have people chosen to settle here?” they ask.
Grant, a well-known photographer in Canberra, holds degrees from the ANU in anthropology and visual arts, won the National Photographic Portrait Prize in 2018 and produced her first book, “Belco Pride” in 2021, but is best-known for her commissions and projects dealing with themes of community, identity, belonging and landscape. Grant, since moving to the coast, has also taken a keen interest in the thriving film-making community there, including the local Far South Film production of “The Oudmaker of Narooma”.
Lacheta, who’s lived down at the coast since 2015 but has been going there for long summer holidays since she was a child in Canberra, made a sea change from life in Melbourne.
Trained in composition and piano at the University of Adelaide, she has worked for years in sustainability and resilience programs and now in the Eurobodalla and the wider region as a policy and project officer for the Community Industry Group and as an advocate for Seniors Rights Service.
“I got to know a lot of people in disability and sustainability and local food production, people who make and build things and make music, business people from a broad spectrum,” she says.
“A lot of people think the south coast is quite Anglo-Saxon, but it’s not true.
“There’s not perhaps the diversity like Sydney, Melbourne or Canberra, but the point of our project is to honour this diversity and show not just people you don’t know, but the kind of things that people do… Robust regional communities are diverse, creative and responsive to change.”
For instance, there’s the aforementioned oudmaker, Faouzi Saouli who came from Morocco with his wife Cat, to look after her father.
Another lively character their exhibition will focus on is Jan Frikken, a former staffer at Illawarra Multicultural Services who now runs a supermarket in Batemans Bay. She has turned her shop into a hub for the wider multicultural community, making spaces to meet and upstairs for English classes.
Then there’s Lei Parker, who 30-odd years ago moved onto a big, old property in Tuross Head then in 2006 set up “The Beagle Weekly” website to provide residents and visitors to the Eurobodalla area with an independent news source.
At the youthful end of the spectrum is Eurobodalla Shire Council’s community development officer Jordan Nye, a young Indigenous man descended from an old family at Barlings Beach, described by Lacheta as “lovely empathetic young man defining his path and multiculturalism”.
Artist Mary Watson, whose cottage studio burnt down in the fire, has already set up again in the Manor Retirement Village in Batemans Bay, where she has prepared for a popup show in Mogo, while awaiting the arrival of a new kiln.
Everybody knows Chris Scroggy, whose collection of more than 200 Hawaiian shirts is legendary. He, with his wife Robyn, run the Narooma Quarterdeck on the shores of the Wagonga Inlet. Since buying the business in 2001 they have transformed the former oyster growers’ shed and fish and chip takeaway to a hub for domestic and international musicians touring blues, folk, bluegrass R&B and indie rock.
“It’s become a beloved institution steeped in regional feeling,” Lacheta says.
In her view, Australians are not very good at celebrating so in their exhibition at “The BAS” they want to go deeper, to celebrate what people are doing and how they continue to go forward.
The show coincides with the first anniversary of the bushfires and Grant’s photos will form the visual centrepiece. The stories written by Lacheta appear in the catalogue, while a film montage will be shown on a screen.
“Untold Eurobodalla”, Lee Grant and Amadis Lacheta, The BAS, corner of Vulcan St and Campbell St, Moruya, Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-4pm, Saturday, December 12-February 7.