Feral camels inspire stunning contemporary art

Article | Updated 3 months ago

sculpture of a helicopter chasing camels, Crafted from wire, tjanpi (wild harves

Dianne Ungukalpi Golding (Warakurna) / Helicopter Chasing Camels 2016 / Crafted from wire, tjanpi (wild harvested) grass, raffia and yarn /
Collection: Western Australian Museum / Image courtesy: Tjanpi Desert Weavers, NPY Women’s Council 

Helicopter Chasing Camels by Warakurna artist Dianne Ungukalpi Golding is a recent acquisition for the State Collection.  It is one of the many exciting new works that will feature in the New Museum, sharing stories about contemporary land practices. 

Dianne Ungukalpi Golding is an accomplished artist and weaver whose recent work explores how the people of Ngaanyatjarra Lands, in the far east of Western Australia, have chosen to manage feral camels.

The feral camel population is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands.  They do considerable damage to the rangelands in remote WA including trampling over grazing vegetation, draining or fouling water points and displacing local wildlife that rely on scarce desert water sources. The camels also do considerable damage to taps, wells, watering points and fences in remote communities.

Dianne was inspired to create Helicopter Chasing Camels for the Vincent Lingiari Art Award, when she was invited to reflect on the theme Our Land, Our Life, Our Future.  Her sculptures are made from wire, tjanpi (wild harvested) grass, raffia and yarn. 

She notes: ‘When the Ngaanyatjarra Lands first got its Indigenous Protected Areas status, Mr Bennett went up in a big yellow helicopter with the ranger coordinator to look at the land around Warakurna Community. When they were flying they saw big herds of feral camels near the community. These camels kept coming into Warakurna at night, breaking taps and fences, and being a nuisance.

As part of the ranger program, Mr Bennett and the rangers set up bores with water tanks and troughs outside of the community, which stopped them [the camels] wandering into town to get water. The rangers also use the helicopters to muster the camels into yards. The camels are then herded onto big trucks and into town for meat.’

The people of Ngaanyatjarra Lands have opted against culling feral camels, choosing instead to manage the population by mustering and selling the camels to export markets, turning a nuisance into economic opportunity.

Dianne's work will feature in a display in the New Museum about land practices and how human activity has, and continues to, impacts on the landscape and environment

You can listen to Dianne talk about her work in a short video, courtesy of the Tjanpi Desert Weavers, NPY Women’s Council.