Behind the scenes: an intimate knowledge of plants

Sydney artist Dale Kentwell says a sand base helps develop the texture and richness that the Dampier Peninsula exhibits. Here she describes what inspired her when painting a portrait of Debbie Sibosado (Angadoo). It features in her new book, Seeing Saltwater Country.

    I had been given Debbie Sibosado’s phone number as someone I might have a lot in common with. I had rung Debbie from Sydney to have a chat. We spoke on the phone and emailed, and she was able to describe country and vegetation types with such passion and detail. I was hooked and very, very excited about the project. While in the Dampier Peninsula, we camped for a while at Deb’s place, where we ate crocodile and wandered through the beautiful country, identifying plants. Deb was able to tell me their traditional uses, from bush tucker to their medicinal properties. Apart from being a tour guide and educator, Debbie was also developing a range of skincare products. We wandered down to the springs one day, to the place where Debbie said she would like to appear in her portrait, with the waterlilies. We moved through the sundews and Kimberley braid fern, till we reached the bulrushes and melaleuca canopy and the waterlilies. We talked of the animals that come down to drink at the springs. I was particularly taken by baarni – the big water monitor, and the rainbow bee-eaters. Deb’s bush name is Angadoo, and Oogul is the Bardi name of the underground, edible parts of the waterlilies.

Oogul final-CMYK300

Dale Kentwell has worked as a bush regenerator for the past thirty years and her art practice has been informed by this intimate connection to the landscape. She has had 11 solo shows and 35 group shows and her work is in private and public collections nationally and internationally.

Seeing Saltwater Country will feature at the Fremantle Press Criminally Good Great Big Book Read, and is available online and at all good bookstores.

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