‘Walk a While’ came into fruition in landscape photographer Ken Duncan’s mind when he came to know of the dire need for ‘creative education’ among the youth of indigenous communities.
Ken’s line of work has seen him tour some of the most remote regions of Australia, capturing pictures that have cemented his place as one of the world’s prominent landscape photographers. On tour he had the opportunity to spend time with the Indigenous people in these areas, which paved the way for strong friendships.
However, Ken certainly wasn’t the first photographer to visit these areas in search of elusive locations. He asked community leaders of their experience with other photographers and film makers who have passed through. The answer was disappointing. “Many visitors pass through taking what they want or need. But, most of them give nothing back to the community”, they said.
The seed had been planted in Ken’s mind. It was time to change the status quo. However, the thing about creating change is that it is easy to pass the buck and let someone else take care of it.
That’s not Ken’s style. Remembering Gandhi’s immortal words, “Be the change you wish to see”, he and his team set about creating the proverbial dent in the universe. They lay the foundation to make a difference.
The idea took shape with the words of a wise elder from one of the indigenous communities.
“If you really want to know someone, you need to ‘walk a while’ with them”.
‘Walk A While’ was born.
The crux of the initiative is simple, yet powerful.
Ken and his team ‘walk’ with children and adults of remote Indigenous communities in Australia bringing hope through creative technologies and visual art. The goal is to empower Indigenous creativity and enable lasting change.
So, what does a leading landscape and nature photographer and his team of creative pros have in common with the Indigenous people? What makes the chemistry work?
“First of all, we’re all children of this land”, says Ken. “But, there’s more. Another source unites us – the arts’.
With creative and visual arts as common ground, the team works with youth empowering them to create their stories using photography as a medium. Not only does this help them become better communicators, storytellers and photographers, it also helps them in the long-term by setting the stage for better employment opportunities. Thus, one student upskilling himself/herself to gain suitable employment not only helps them, but their family and community.
“Many Indigenous people are geographically and technologically isolated – they are in remote locations and they lack the necessary skills to become self-sufficient. Our primary goal is to work with the youth in these communities – to encourage them in the creative arts and to equip them with the tools and skills they need to tell their stories into the future”. - Ken Duncan
Some of the amazing photographs shot by Ken's students
However, one of the challenges they faced was sustaining the results of the programme. ‘Walk a While’ teams take their own equipment when visiting each community. But when the team leaves, so does the technology. This means, all the progress they made is lost because the students have no way of continuing their learning.
This immediate need opened the doors for companies like EIZO, EPSON, PANASONIC and ARB to supply professional equipment, which otherwise, may never have been accessible to these students.
Walk a While has secured the use of an ex-Government building in the community of Haasts Bluff, NT, which will house instructors and equipment. It will provide a base for training in a variety of creative arts including photography, cinematography, music and design, plus tourism development.
The programme has gained momentum with more of Australia’s finest artists joining. Central to the plan is to show the students how they can make a living through creative arts. This opens an array of options for their future and helps free them from the cycle of dependency, which erodes identity and self-respect.
At present Ken is working with the Ikuntji community in Haasts Bluff. The vision of ‘Walk a While’ is to create a model which can be rolled out across other communities, setting the stage for all citizens of Australia to truly walk a while, together.
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