One River local project artist, Jude Roberts, closed her project Unravelling the Maranoa, at a special evening event held on Thu 30 May at the Maranoa Gallery in Mitchell, Queensland. Taking centre stage in the exhibition were seven 9-metre long rolls of paper that had been immersed in the river at sites of significance for local people. The papers all took on markings from their immersions which metaphorically allowed the Maranoa River to tell its own story, and perhaps more importantly, acted as a conversation starter to enable local people to tell their stories about living alongside the one of the fastest flowing rivers in the Murray-Darling Basin.
“Most farmers around this area are dealing with a severe drought some fifteen months after the highest recorded flood,” Jude said, “so the local experience of the Maranoa at the moment is of going from one extreme to another.”
Unravelling the River is part of a project called One River, a Centenary of Canberra project which aims to use the Canberra’s birthday celebrations during 2013 to highlight the common stories of life within the Murray-Darling Basin. Like Murray Bridge, Canberra’s location is very much linked to its proximity to a viable water source and as the largest city in the basin, it was fitting to use this occasion to reimagine the Murray-Darling Basin, to document local stories and experiences and create a new story for future generations. Jude has been working with Mitchell community for some months, through workshops in schools and through gathering photos and stories of the February 2012 floods to include in the exhibition.
“Mitchell residents have been through a difficult time with ninety percent of homes flooded last year, but there are a lot of positives about a flood,” Jude said. “Floods bring silt back to the topsoil, they fill dams, and when the rain comes you can see the force of the river, and that’s exciting.”
Jude’s exhibition, which ran for about three weeks, had steady traffic of about 80 people a day and a further 60 local residents attended the closing event. Following speeches and acknowledgement, Jude invited her guests outside where a bulldozer delivered the final roll of paper which had that morning received a very special marking from the tyres of a visiting crane, courtesy of Neil Braden and his crew who are building Mitchell’s new bridge.
“This paper is a little bit of history,” Neil said. “It carries the markings of the making of this new bridge which is going to be here for a long time.”
Unravelling the River is the fifth of ten local projects that will be delivered as part of the One River project. All ten projects will travel to Canberra for a final outcome over the weekend of 23-25 August 2013.