Fight

 

1997,  130 x 210cms  NFS

 

Public Collection, Broken Hill Regional Gallery

 

Early August 1996 Adrian Hayes and his wife Gwenda Namatjira wanted a lift to Trucking Yards camp where he thought the Rices were. There was a kafuffle about who was minding Gwenda’s kids.

 

'I need argument with that bloke an’  ’is missus,’ said Adrian.

 

The offending party wasn’t at the Trucking yards, so we continued a few kilometres south to the Larapinta camp, situated mid-track of the puppy dog dreaming. I was impressed by Adrian remonstrating on my car bonnet as I sat safely behind the wheel. Confronting issues with immediate impact was not my forte. I suppressed my anger and got tongue-tied when it did erupt. It was how I’d adapted to my older brother’s bullying as a kid, and my father’s volatility. Adrian would not be going to lawyers to send threatening letters. He made his claims and settled on the spot, gesticulating and yelling at the Rices. Pitted against five other adults, he put his case courageously, convincingly, and powerfully. Survival and gaining ascendancy in an argument depended on urgent and spontaneous expression. But there were other means.

   

My kids accompanied me to Little Well over the weekend. When we returned, I was told there had been carnage at Whitegate. Thirty or so Golders and Campbells, from Ilpeye Ilpeye, had trooped into camp wielding clubs and sticks and blitzed the Hayes. Bodies were strewn in the dust around the sheds. No one was killed, but the injury toll was significant. Gwenda had been taken to hospital with a nasty head wound. But first, she had had been driven to three town camps to show off her wound, advertising for help should it be required. Several others admitted themselves to hospital over the weekend. Patrick sent a message through young Joseph Hayes to evacuate Mary Hayes, the kids and himself back to Antwelye. When I got to Whitegate, they were gone. Only a few dogs lingered by the last wisps of the embers

 

The long-standing feud between Campbells and Hayes didn’t require much to ignite into violence. In retribution John Wallace, Justin Hayes, Shane Buzzacott and Arthur Webb torched one of the houses at Ilpeye Illpeye.  All of them did nine months on an arson wrap at the new Roe Creek prison. Later, other family members from Santa Teresa were implicated and imprisoned. These events would lead to the painting Fight, made early in 1997. Relatives at Charles Creek, much closer to town, added to the rising friction through the town’ streets.

 

Over the Christmas vacation the police requested direct family not to leave the settlement.