Kids in Mt Liebig try out their bikes
Posted by Jeremy Eccles | 09.09.10
Location: Art Equity, Barrack House, Barrack Street, Sydney 2000
All thirty school-age kids in the Western Desert community of Mt Liebig (Amunturrngu) will get new BMX bikes next Saturday (18th September). They've been donated by the Bikes for Bush Foundation – which is intending to fund further bikes for remote desert communities with an auction of three Aboriginal painted racing bikes in Melbourne on Friday 1st October in Melbourne, coinciding with the UCI Road World Championships.
For behind this project is Team Fly V Australia, the national cycling team managed by Chris White of Pegasus Racing, which ended the recent American season as number one team and is currently applying for a ProTour licence to race in events like the Tour de France next year.
While White and sponsor Lumo Energy have managed the bike side of things, Sydney's Art Equity has organised the painting – bringing in three of the Desert's most senior artists – Wentja Napaltjarri from Mt Leibig, Mrs Bennett ( Nyurapayia Nampitjinpa) from Docker River, and Tommy Watson from Irrunytju. Only Wentja's bike has been seen so far – but her brilliance in reducing the complexity of her father's country west of Kintore – which appears in the image on the 3 metre canvas behind the artist – to a spindly little bike frame has amazed everyone.
As Mt Liebig's Watiyawanu Art Centre manager, Glenis Wilkins explained, the rear forks of the bike reminded Wentja of kangaroo leg bones – and of course she'd had experience in the past of painting woomera and tjuringa. Wilkins went on to say that the project had been a great lift for the whole community – painting had been in abeyance since the death of Bill Whiskey in Mt Leibig. But the prospect of losing the bikes for their children and grandchildren brought many an artist back to the art centre to encourage Wentja. “And they love it that Papunya (nearby and rather more famous) is already really jealous”, she added!
Papunya could be the next cab off the rank if all goes well at Mt Liebig. Each bike will have its owner's name engraved on it, both the school and the local youth club are involved in devising maintenance and track racing programs for the kids, and Glenis Wilkins says she has a place she can lock bikes up for a few days if school attendance falls off or there are any signs of destructive behaviour.
Chris White sees nothing but good after take a test bike out to Mt Liebig and being amazed how quickly the kids adapted to using it. “I have a dream of an Aboriginal bloke riding up the Champs Elysee at the end of the Tour de France as a member of our national team”, he raved. “There are great similarities in cycling to the endurance and bursts of speed needed in AFL”, he explained. “And indigenous boys are stars at that”. To underline the dream, Team Fly V is adopting an Aboriginal logo for its racing outfits – an image created by Wentja Napaltjarri of tracks between two waterholes; “or Australia going on to the international stage”, as White sees it.
Both Cadell Evans and Robbie McEwan – top international cyclists – started riding on BMX bikes.
The three bikes to be auctioned in Melbourne are classy numbers before being painted – two from Merida, one from Derossa – as used by Team Fly V and donated by the manufacturers. It's hoped that the artistic additions will help to raise $100,000 on October 1st. The auction takes place at 7pm at BMW Southbank, Kings Road in Melbourne.
Wentja Napaltjarri with her auction bike in front of her canvas 'Rockholes West of Kintore' at Art Equity