BOASTS, pleas, insults, pledges, gang tags, promises, cries of love and howls of pain, each one transformed into jagged capitals, scrawled, stencilled or thickly printed: on the panels of public phone boxes, on store walls of rough concrete block, on the ribbed sides of shipping containers, in every shade of every primary colour, weathered, faded, overlaid, recopied.
Yes, graffiti - Aboriginal remote community graffiti - a maze-like assemblage of letters and interlocking words and symbols, a kaleidoscope of collective creativity: a frontier form of art-making, ephemeral, unappreciated, vanishing.
Travellers on bush roads still come upon the evidence at each fuel-stop: the bright graffiti-festooned signs and unofficial message boards that decorate the heart of every large indigenous community. Federal ministers on quick fly-in trips glance at the designs and slogans, and smile indulgently. Program workers stationed in the Northern Territory's deep back-blocks take care to pass the panels and their dark tidings of dysfunction by, as do the platoons of busy remote service delivery bureaucrats.
But the decorated walls and placards leap out, they announce themselves, they confront the eye. Look at us, they say, look - from the furthest outstations of the western desert to the big indigenous townships of the Top End, from west Cape York to that Florence of the graffiti world, Wave Hill, set in the lush plain country where the sand dunes and the savanna meet.
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