Desert Pearls, interventions in public space - Cynthia Schwertsik
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About This Project

Desert Pearls

An ephemeral public artwork

presented in 5 video sequences (single channel HD looped, with audio) at Broken Hill Regional Gallery April 2021

and at Wir sind die Goldene Revolution! July 2021

commissioned by the Broken Hill Regional Gallery

In recognition of significant women, past and present, of Broken Hill

Cynthia Schwertsik in collaboration with

Susan Thomas and the Broken Hill Art Exchange

with Tahnee Arnold and Willyama High School Students

Sarah-Jane Smith

Claudia Standley

Jasmin Fryer

Hanna Metcalfe

Grace Molloy

Videography and photography by Alexandra Rosenblum

The achievements of sombre men find their way into public spaces, honoured in monuments, statues, and plaques, whilst individual women usually go unrecognised for their contributions to socio-political progress.

Desert Pearls engages with a history of defiant women. During 2020, artist Cynthia Schwertsik worked with Susan Thomas and the Broken Hill Art Exchange, and teachers and students from Willyama High School to unearth and revive stories of women who have been active figures in the history of Broken Hill. This project engaged women of different ages and backgrounds in the research, interpretation and performance of stories sourced from the Broken Hill Family History Group and beyond. The result is a series of video and photographic works that elevate women’s voices and give them a place to be recognised and celebrated in public space.

Desert Pearls is a documented public intervention, performed and produced in the early evening of November 14th, 2020. The video is the culmination of discussions between women of multiple generations, conversations of frustration and hope. The video chronicles colourful female characters – drawn from those that inspired the project –engaging playfully with the unmoving bronze busts of the Syndicate of Seven, the original members of the Broken Hill Mining Company formed in 1883. The camera follows a series of accumulative and intuitive interventions on the site outside the Broken Hill City Council building.

We acknowledge the Wilyakali and Barkindji people who are the custodians of this land. We recognise their significant and ongoing history on this country, and especially pay our respects to their strong and proud women.

Historic women of Broken Hill 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 of Broken Hill 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

Special thanks to:

Renate Nisi

Ghislaine Barbe


Collaboration, Participatory Exchange, Public Space