An artistic collaboration

Director of Service Learning George Huitker and Year 11 student Alan Chen working on "Near Myall Creek"

Director of Service Learning George Huitker and Year 11 student Alan Chen working on "Near Myall Creek"

Interviews by Communications Manager Mick Bunworth

Radford College Director of Service Learning George — known as “H”— Huitker recently released his song Near Myall Creek.

The film clip for the song is an animation done by Year 11 student Alan Chen.

The pair answer some questions about the project below.

Q&A with George Huitker, Director of Service Learning

What prompted you to write the song? I heard Neil Murray’s song about Myall Creek a while ago and was moved by the lyrics. They talk about our how our friend and Gamilaraay elder, Sue Blacklock embraces Beulah Adams at a commemoration service there: A descendant of the murderers, a descendent of the slain/met at Myall Creek and sisters they became. As I visit Myall Creek at least half a dozen times a year, I’ve always felt compelled, almost driven, to write a song about my own feelings on being there. That Aunty Sue has heard the song and endorsed it means a lot to me.

How long did it take? The song is largely unchanged from how it came out of my head when I sat at my baby grand with a pen and pad. The recording and mixing took over a year.

What was it like the first time you took it to Junkyard Sculpture and heard it played with a full band? I was confident they would get it, as we toured Northern New South Wales in 2014 and visited Myall Creek and the region, playing for the communities out there. I’ve been hesitant to put it in setlists because it is sombre, serious and slowly-paced. But we played it with power and passion at our Dirrum 2017 gig and I was very proud of how it sounded and how it moved people who had not heard it before.

What was the recording process like? Really, really long. I’m an impatient but ultimately understanding man: for the integrity of the song I was willing to let it take as long as it needed for all stakeholders to be happy with it.

How did you get the idea to have the film clip be an animation? How did you “find” Alan or how did the connection between song and animation happen? Alan submitted an amazing video for a RaVE project when in Year 9. I knew immediately it was the right feel for what I was trying to get across for the song and hoped he would be happy to do an animation for it. The highly sensitive and subtle clip he produced exceeded all expectations; he is a talented, clever and creative young man.

It debuted to a larger “live” audience at Dirrum Dirrum with you in the room after a talk by Mark Tedeschi. What was that experience like? As that was our final Junk Sculpture performance, to perform a song so close to our hearts to an audience wanting to hear it was special to say the least. The song, like Mark’s book, is trying to get more people aware of what happened in 1838 and wonder if, in fact, a lot has changed in attitudes towards our First People. Looking at the recent Closing The Gap report card, I do think we need to take more steps beyond being merely aware.

Have the Myall Creek Massacre perpetrators’ and victims’ descendants heard it? What was their reaction? Aside from Aunty Sue, I am unaware of who exactly has heard it and whether their reactions are positive or negative.

What do you want to happen with the song? Anthropologist WEH Stanner writes of our inattention to the Indigenous perspective as being like …a view from a window which has been placed to exclude a whole quadrant of the landscape. My hope is that this song encourages people, particularly our students, to view that once-hidden quadrant. Then do something about what they see.

 

 

Q&A with Alan Chen, Year 11 student

How long have you been animating?

I haven’t been animating for a long time. I picked it up sometime in Year 9 for a RaVE project (also facilitated by H!). In thinking of ways to express my ideas, I thought animation was an interesting way to use my drawing skills in a video.

How long did it take you to finish this film clip? How many hours, days, months?

The video by itself took about one to one and a half months, but there was a lot of back and forth between H’s ideas and my own creative injection. Most of the time I was busy with school commitments and other things. Once H approached me near the end of Year 9 to make his video, the first draft occurred a little more than a year afterwards, and the final video was published about a month ago.

Talk us through the process? Is it painstaking? Did you do it line by line, or map out a whole storyline after hearing the whole song?

H had sent me the initial draft of the song to give me a general vibe and provide inspiration as to what I could include in the images. I knew that the lyrics of the song were really personal and powerful, so I wanted my images to reflect that aspect of the music. I also spent a little time researching the actual incident that the song addresses, just to fully grasp H’s intention as best as I could. A good portion of the initial ideas were storyboarded around the lyrical meaning. When transferring to animation, each image is drawn a minimum of four times to create the active drawing nature of the video. It’s very time consuming, but it’s interesting trying to capture the meaning through the creative process.

What did you think the first time you heard and saw the finished product?

Because I was working with H and the development of the song the whole time, it wasn’t extremely surprising. But it was really overwhelming to sit back and realise the gravity of the project and really appreciate all the effort that went into making it! It was really gratifying to help H facilitate his ideas and I am really grateful that he asked me to help him.

How have your friends and family reacted?

A lot of them really like it! My family especially are pretty surprised that I made it, saying things like, ‘did you really make this?’ It’s very humorous, but all-in-all, a lot of them became really interested in the story and incident behind the video, which is very positive and fuels its intention.

Will you keep animating?

 

I plan to! Animation is very intriguing for me, and I want to improve my skills and perhaps work on similar projects like these.

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