Desert Pearls

Cynthia Schwertsik

In 2021 visiting artist Cynthia Schwertsik and Broken Hill artist Susan Thomas produced ‘Desert Pearls’, an ephemeral public Artwork for the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery - Public Art Program and Broken Hill City Council - Heritage Festival, 2021.

Cynthia’s art practice includes contemporary performance with participatory audience inclusion realised in public space. Cynthia has been a returning Artist in Residence at the Broken Hill Art Exchange since 2018. As artist in residence Cynthia engages the local community through workshops, mural work and performance. Cynthia commenced her career as a dancer and performer in Austria and generates projects across and array of artistic practices including visual art, installation, public art and theory, and works in collaboration with various artists. Cynthia’s work has been commissioned and presented throughout Europe, Australia, South Africa, and the USA.

 Desert Pearls ephemeral public artwork recognising significant women, past and present, of Broken Hill

 Produced by Cynthia Schwertsik and Susan Thomas in collaboration with Tahnee Arnold and Willyama High School Students, and the Broken Hill Art Exchange Inc. images: by Alexandra Rosenblum

 Achievements by somber men find their way to be honoured in public space in monuments. Individual women usually go unrecognised for their contributions to the sociopolitical changes. In tracking down stories of women that have been active figures in Broken Hill and discussing their position with the Students at Willyama High School, we found that the students were hungry for stories that elevated women and gave them a place to be recognised and celebrated in public space.

 This project comes as a result of a documented public intervention. The culmination of a year in preparation came to fruition in this series of videos made in the early evening of November 14th, 2020.

 Colourful female characters engage playfully with the sombre male representations in bronze. After the study of prominent women from Broken Hill we imagined to step into their shoes and performed in the space of the Syndicate of Seven, at the Broken Hill Civic centre at the Broken Hill City Council building.

The camera accompanied the developing action as each of the performers consecutively exclaimed their part and progressed into intuitive interventions on site.

People of different ages and backgrounds are involved in research, interpretation and performing of the stories sourced from the Broken Hill Family History Group and other sources. We acknowledge that the Wilikali – Barkintji –people are the custodians of this land, we recognise their significant history in this country, we hope the story of these women will be told.

 Historic Women that inspired this project:

 Margaret Morris (1887-1957), environmentalist

Alfonsi, Teresa (Tess) Vera (1907–1986), miner

Nina Bills (1911-1977), journalist

Sister Ellen Felicia Jones (1917- unknown), Elocutionist

Elizabeth Refchange (1924-?), Miss Pix – Magazine cover girl 1944/45

Mary Noreen Mullins (1914-1996), women pilot

Dorothy Alison (1925-1992), Film Star

June Mary Bronhill (1929 -2005), Opera Singer

Sister Vivian Bulwinkle (1915-2000), Nurse

and Irene Drummond (19-1942), War Nurse

Dr Franiska Schlink (1910-1965), first woman Doctor

Mary Gilmore, (1865 – 1962), poet, Dame Mary Gilmore is the female face of the Australian $10 note.

Mary Lee (1821-1909), Suffragist, Union activist and Welfare worker

 Contemporary Women that inspired the project:

Darriea Turley, Mayoress, labour active and philanthropist

Anika Molesworth contemporary sustainable farmer (ex-sheep farmer)

Marina Sulicich, Olympic Gymnast

Jenny Camilleri Family History Group, author

Jess Byrne, Wilikali – Barkintji, actress

Louise Moriati, President Broken Hill Art Exchange (2020)

Aimee Volkofsky, musician

 Thanks to:The Willyama High School student performers on the day including Sarah-Jane Smith, Claudia Standley, Jasmin Fryer, Hanna Metlcalfe, Grace Molloy along with artists including Renate Nisi, Ghislaine Barbe and Asma for their involvement.

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