My black cross, my healing, my spirit, my God

16 Oct 2020

By The Record

By Donella Brown

This time of COVID-19 has been a challenge, but it has also been an opportunity for healing and hope.

Reg Carnamah, who works as a Pastoral Worker at the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, was given the task to paint the Stations of the Cross. It was to be a personal challenge, requiring him to use his skills as an artist to interpret and paint the Stations of the Cross and to relate it to his own personal story and the journey of his struggles with addiction.

Before we went into lockdown, I met with Reg just to say that it would be something that would be a challenge as he would have to do this without the ACM team around him, and there would be few opportunities to yarn and to share his thoughts. Doubts about his artistic ability and what if it is not good enough were counteracted with it is about your Aboriginal story, your spiritualty, and your relationship with your God and how it comes out will be great no matter what, because it is your story.

During our second phase of working from home, I arranged for each team member to meet with me individually. Reg had come into the office the evening before to set out the first six stations on the meeting room floor. What emerged from our discussions was that with each of the paintings he did indeed revisit many aspects of his life that had been painful and in the revisiting he was putting some closure, and reaffirming that he has emerged as a stronger person, able to carry the pain and the joy of life together but also knowing that there will still be challenges ahead.
It was also during these meetings that Reg requested some time off to go back to Yamatji and Badymaya country around Geraldton and Yalgoo. The isolation of COVID and the need to reconnect with family and country was very strong.

Going back to Country

When the intrastate borders were opened, Reg went back for a week to sit and spend the time yarning with family. These were his people and they knew of or had lived part of his journey with him. They helped him to find the words that needed to go with the story of his paintings.
He went to the big lakes around Yalgoo to reconnect to the stories. He wandered around, allowed time for reflection and drew strength from the stories of these places. He remembered the story of how the rainy season always allowed the lakes around Yalgoo to reconnect with the other lakes all the way down to Lake Grace and across to Wadjak country near Perth.
When the lakes were full the plants and animals were everywhere and full of life and the people were also rejuvenated. The spirit of the land is there in the dry season and it waits for the rains to bring visible life back into the landscape and this, in turn, renews the spirit of the people. The seasons change just like the seasons that change in our own life; it is a sign of the ebb and flow of life.

Now the paintings sit in our office and each day we sit and reflect and comment on them. During these times of reflection, Reg tells us a bit more about the paintings. He has shared glimpses of the many people on his journey, his mother, his supporters and the people who tried to drag him back down and he draws parallels with Jesus’ life in the Scriptures. All these people are significant and have taught Reg many lessons about humanity.
Reg has also pointed out that he uses a black cross in all the paintings and as he says although it is my journey it is also symbolic of the journey of many other Aboriginal people.

How the colours reach the canvas

I finish with some words from Reg:

“When I paint, I wonder how other artists mix their colours. For me, when I paint, I dip my fingers into my heart so that the colours would come from my heart onto the canvas. My life was just black and white especially when I was going through crap and I couldn’t see myself coming out of it for a long time. I experienced this and once I come out of the crap the moods changed. The colours in my life changed. This is like my paintings.”

For Reg, it is a continuing journey of his life.

The Aboriginal Catholic Ministry will now work with the Archdiocese to share this inspirational project with both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community.

From page 16 of Issue 27: Adult Faith Formation in the context of Healing’ of The Record Magazine