My first Solo Exhibition - Port Hedland Courthouse Gallery


t h e   i d e a   o f   w i t t e n o o m

“My initial perception of the Town of Wittenoom: it would be fenced off,
locked up, boarded and closed for business with remnants of strewn asbestos
everywhere. The only people left, a few stubborn folk, so entrenched they
were afraid to leave…

With every whisper of its name, a lingering curiosity was aroused. I finally
visited. My interest was suddenly amplified to inspiration - the town is an
enigma: a conundrum of beauty paralysed within a deadly history. Closed in
1966 and de-gazetted as a town in 2007, there is no power or amenities that
would ordinarily exist to sustain a population. I discovered the town was not
fenced off or locked up. It was not a Blue Town.

The conditions endured by the workers and families living in Wittenoom were
tough. Unbeknown to most, here was always the probability their bodies
would succumb to disease from their life in Wittenoom. Questions regarding
denial of an inadequate clean-up, an element of ‘out of sight out of mind’, a
money-versus-morals dichotomy immersed within the absence of care.

Yet this town is just over the hill from the breathtaking Karijini, a paradox
between the debris of man’s errors and ignorance contrasted with the
breathtaking topography and geological construct of an amazing landscape,
home to the Banyjima people.

My hope in developing the story of Blue Town is to rekindle an awareness, and
provoke a little curiosity for the lessons to be learnt from this unique place. I
have tried to explore the idea of what our preconceived perceptions of a town
or location might be, versus the reality when we actually visit.”

Craig Rowles, 2018