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Photographer Martine Perret and Wadandi collaborators seek funding for UNESCO prized appearance

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Mitchella Hutchins with  Martine Perret, Vivian Brockman Webb and Mabenan Hutchins.
Camera IconMitchella Hutchins with Martine Perret, Vivian Brockman Webb and Mabenan Hutchins. Credit: David Dare Parker

Internationally-acclaimed Margaret River-based photographer Martine Perret and her indigenous collaborators have scored a prized chance to represent the State’s at-risk Aboriginal languages at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization headquarters in France.

But Perret and Wadandi colleagues Vivian Brockman Webb and Mitchella Hutchins have to raise funds urgently for the overseas mission if they are to have a chance to attend.

“It is an enormous privilege to be invited by UNESCO and it is a wonderful opportunity to share this collaborative work on the international stage, particularly for such an important mission,” Perret told the Times.

“We are seeking support to travel to Paris for this amazing opportunity.

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“We have received the invitation at very short notice for the date of December 13,” Perret said.

“It is a matter of urgency to organise flight and hotel bookings, so we seek funding now to enable the smooth preparation of the trip.”

Perret, Brockman Webb, Hutchins and digital artist and composer Roly Skender were invited to exhibit their latest collaborative audio-visual work Wannang Biridge — the Light of the Peppermint Tree — at the launch of UNESCO’s International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032 in Paris on December 13.

With the short timeframe, Perret has launched a fundraiser via the Australian Cultural Fund’s online platform which is a GoFundMe-style approach for artists and performers.

While she believed arts funding would allow the group to reach the event, extra money was needed for associated costs and she hoped it was a way art-lovers could support her project.

Protecting and showcasing Aboriginal languages was a passion for Perret, who showcased her previous collaboration Belong last year as part of the grand opening of the WA Museum Boola Bardip in Perth.

Since returning from her work covering the West African ebola outbreak for the United Nations in 2014, Perret’s work has increasingly focused on the fragile state of Indigenous languages.

She told the Times she was struck years ago by a UNESCO map detailing the decline of native languages worldwide, and when her time as a conflict photographer came to an end, she dedicated herself to the plight of Aboriginal languages in Australia, where the French native has lived for many years with partner and Walkley award-winning photojournalist David Dare Parker.

“Everything I have done here is to celebrate these languages,” Perret said.

“It’s a really big, important project with a big message to tell. I’m really grateful to the elders and their families who accepted me into their world.

“The United Nations has agreed that more work is needed to protect, revitalise and preserve and promote Indigenous languages.”

December’s prestigious launch would gather high-level government representatives, Indigenous leaders, UN representatives, non-government organisations, researchers, educators, artists and representatives from the public and private sector, Perret said.

Wannang Biridge “investigates the universal idea that everything is connected, and how the memory of the land intrinsically passes through and between us,” the photographer said.

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