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Camille Swallow – Feel my Footprints

Feel My Footprints
Central Highlands award-winning Indigenous artist Camille Swallow, is having her first-ever solo exhibition in the Emerald Art Gallery in May. Her exhibition “Feel My Footprints” is a glimpse into Camille’s life’s narrative.
Camille’s experiences throughout her life have left their marks, and in her paintings, Camille is able to express those marks in a journey of healing and discovery. Each of Camille’s paintings tell her story through the hours of mark-making and precision that it takes to complete a painting, to the images that come to life on the canvas. She has a spiritual connection to Country which is shown through her artwork in a modernistic multicultural style.
Camille’s Exhibition will be on display from 8 May – 17 June 2022.
Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday 8.30am – 5.00pm
Eye’s Without a Face
We lived in an old wooden house where 12 children were reared, 6 boys and 6 girls. There were only two bedrooms in this home, one Mum and Dad’s, the other we all shared.
This little girl is looking for someone to help her find a way out of that room. She wears and old granny hand-me-down nighty and her hair is plaited hair with a ripped-up sheet. Plenty of people are looking but no one came to see her face.
Afternoon Glory
This is about a woman who has worked so hard throughout the day and has now come to be at peace with herself.
The countless days working out bush with picks and shovels to be so drained she then sits under a great big gum tree staring down the gully along the ridges into the most beautiful afternoon sunset where she goes to another place.
She is at ease, resting, her free spirit and the world only. Nothing can touch her.
Big Butterfly
Dad grew only one orange tree in our yard which produced an amazing amount of the most sweetest oranges. There was a big, black, red and white butterfly that only landed on that orange tree for some reason, never anywhere else.
I used to be able to always just catch them with my fingers.
Bittersweet has two different meanings.
All my brothers were heavy drinkers and my Dad was the town drunk. Nearly every time he got drunk, he and Mum would argue which resulted in Dad throwing Mum down the stairs with all her stuff.
Dad would also have his drunken mates over and they would try and drink each other under the table (as the saying went in those days). There was always a mess to clean up the next day.
Dad also used to collect old bottles. He would take me with him to the dump when I was little, and I would sit in the car and watch dad searching through all the broken glass to find the good ones.
Bloodline is about my knowledge and understanding being passed down from myself to my daughters and onto my grandchildren. Guiding them through their journey in life.
Every time we would come on our journey out to Emerald, there is a very big old Boab tree about 10 or 15kms out of town. When I saw it, I knew I was home. The feeling of excitement was overwhelming because Emerald is where I have always wanted to live.
Booyan Bridge
My little brothers and I spent days and days here, this was like a second home, other than the Burnett River and the surrounding regions, this is where we would come up to. Crabs, fish and prawns were so plentiful here, we spent so much time here dillying, casting the net and fishing off this bridge, catching food for our family. It was amazing memories for me and the two boys.
Catching Little Green Frogs
Every time it rained; we would hear all the little frogs singing out at night. We would go out to Dad’s roses and there would be heaps of little frogs jumping all over them. We couldn’t help ourselves and try and catch these tiny frogs.
Child’s Play
Child’s play is about four little cousins. Every time we were out bush camped up and these whirlwinds formed, no matter where these kids were, one would yell out “whirlwind” and they would just jump up and throw themselves into them.
Didn’t matter the sticks or dust, up they would go. The sheer joy and happiness on these kids' faces and the feeling you got inside from watching them was so warming.
This is my interpretation of a vision I had. I could only see his dark image and figuration.
A tribal man came to me one night and spoke to me about keeping the traditional way of painting with your hands alive. He asked me to paint him, but he said I could only use my sticks (as that is what I only paint with) to shape the outside of his body and when I painted him, I had to use my fingers. So, I only used my fingers to paint his whole body.
He sits in a cave with the spirits, connecting with him, connecting with me. The hands imprinted on the wall of the cave to remind us to use them as much as we can in our artwork.
Crazy is my representation of the evil substance abuse can do to a person’s inner self and body. While I have never indulged into anything like this, my life experience with loved ones is a journey I will never forget.
This crazy world that they live in and the destruction of oneself is so hard to understand.
Their body changes so much, while losing so much weight their eyes become yellow and their faces so drawn in you see their bones. It’s like their body twists inside out and they talk with their hand all the time. When they are searching, they pace up and down, moving so quickly it’s crazy.
When they have found what they are looking for they pile in one room on top of each other and you don’t see them for days on end, only on the odd occasion when the needed something.
While it is all so beautiful in their world, the path of destruction they leave along the way is so hard to mend.
Yellow ochre is the beauty and also the ugly change in that person’s body and the black is the darkness that's left behind not only for themselves but the ones that love them the most.
Emu at the Zoo
Every time we went to the zoo the Emus were always pacing up and down the fence line. Mum would always say don’t get too close to the Emus or they will peck your eyes out.
The Only Ride
The only time we got to go to the Show was when Uncle Noel came and picked us up. Dad would come with us, but Mum seldom did. Tickets were 20 cents back then and we would line up at the gate to go in. The only ride we were allowed on was the big Ferris Wheel. When that was finished, we had to go home. That was our day at the Show.
First Visits
My sister has a phobia of toads. When I very first went to Innisfail, we visited my cousin’s place. On dusk the toads were everywhere on his lawn. You couldn’t even see the grass for toads. Because my sister was so scared, we jumped in the car and wound all the windows up. The boys grabbed handfuls of toads and threw them all over the car. It was disgusting as they were sliding all down the windscreen.
Just down the road from where we camped up at the Willows, was this great big hollow log. Inside it lived a huge Goanna. Us kids would go down the track looking for him. When we got close, he would poke his head out chase us. We’d turn and fly back to the camp. I’m pretty sure we tormented him as much as he wanted to bite us. Sometimes I think he was looking for us to come down that track.
Hard Times
We were always malnourished, skinny little black kids, even though at times we had the best of food. We were always starving.
Our uncle grew Sunflowers and us kids used to sneak across and hide in the sunflower patch because Uncle lived next door. We would spend hours sitting in there pulling the flowers down and eating the seeds. Sometimes we would steal some and take them home, but not very often as we didn’t want to get caught or we would be flogged. Uncle always thought it was the birds eating this patch.
Walking with Spiritual Creation
This is where the spirits have left their marks on the land, and I feel they are guiding and teaching me everything I know and am learning.
Indigenous Flag
These are my hands holding the flag and holding onto culture to pass down to the next generation.
Hunter Gatherer
This is about myself and my two little brothers hunting for whatever food we could find on the land and in the oceans for our family, leaving our tracks and footprints always behind us. Our Uncle also taught us how to throw the Boomerang.
About 30 years ago when I lived in Blackwater we went out to one of the mine sites and on the way back and there were two Jabirus standing in the dead grass on the side of the road. That was very unusual as they are mostly only seen out in the Northern Territory. I’ve never seen another Jabiru again.
Journey’s End
In the early hours of the mornings, around 1 to 3am, in the school holidays, Mum and Dad would pile us kids on top of the camping gear in the back of Dad’s ute to make the long journey from Bundaberg to the Willows Gemfields.
After a long day travelling, we would finally arrive just on dusk when you could see the sun going down through the trees. We only had enough daylight left to set up camp. Sometimes we would be setting up in the dark, then it was bed.
Little Blue and Green Men
Down the corner of where we lived there used to be an old streetlight. Us kids were always staring out our louvre windows late at night. Every time Mum and Dad saw us, they would say “you keep looking out those windows and those little blue and green men will get you”. It was always around midnight to 1am, and I swear this night I saw them and can still remember it as clear as today.
Lost in Time
There was an old stomping ground where we used to go called Shark’s Nest, on the Elliott River in Bundaberg. Just another one of our places myself, my sister, my two little brothers and their friend went down to Sharkys.
As we pulled up and got out the car and I could see this huge ocean turtle shell floating into the oyster rocks below. Sharkys had a high bank where you had to climb down, and I said to everyone “I want that turtle shell to take home to paint”. They said “it’s too big, we can’t”.
I said “I got some rope in the car”. So, the boys tied the rope to the tow ball of my car and down in the turtle shell. They skull dragged it up the bank with the car but when it came over the bank all the rotting flesh gushed out.
It was so funny, we couldn’t breathe, and were all dry retching from the smell. We all jumped in the car and took off leaving the turtle shell for the ants to clean out. We took the trailer back three days later as the shell was so big, but somebody had already taken my shell. I was so devastated. That's probably when I would have started painting.
Mon Repose
I used to go down to the turtle rookery at night and watch the mother turtle come up the sand, dig her hole and lay her eggs in it. Then when she was so exhausted, she would go back down the sand after covering her eggs and swim off back onto the ocean.
Mum’s Collection
From as long as I can remember Mum had this most amazing shell collection. Some of my brothers worked on the trawlers and would bring them home for her. A lady that lived on one of the islands used to send shells over to her as well. Mum even had some from the desert.
I used to clean them all the time and the shells were the only thing I ever wanted from my parents, nothing else.Mum gave them to me when I was 11 years old, and I was so happy but one day after dad had passed away Mum said she had something tell me. I said, “what is it?” She said she sold all the shells to my Aunty, as she need the money. I was absolutely shattered.
Mud Crab
We were bought up on the best of seafood, but we were always hungry as there was always 14 mouths to feed. I would always go walking/looking with my little brother Leith through the mangroves. We’d come out with scratches all over us, but we didn’t care as long as we got a feed.
My Friend the Big Grey
My Uncle used to go shooting Kangaroos for food. He didn’t like shooting the females with joeys but one day he accidentally killed one and sent the joey over to me because he knew I loved animals.
I named him Skip, he was my best friend. Dad hung a hessian bag on the wall downstairs which was like a pouch and that’s where he slept every night. I would nurse and bottle feed him, he was like a baby.
When Skip got bigger Dad took him and put him in the zoo at Queens Park. I was so sad. Dad said he would hurt me. Every day I rode my bike down to the zoo and sat for hours petting him through the fence. Every time I got there and called his name, he would come over to me.
One day someone had let all the animals out of the zoo. I don’t remember how long after but down the corner of our street was a big grey kangaroo, and I knew it was him. I sang out “Skip” and he immediately stopped and stood there looking at me.
I said to Dad, “It’s him, can I please go down to him?” but Dad said no and wouldn’t let me.
We stood there for ages staring at each other. I knew it was him, and he knew it was me. Eventually he slowly hopped off and that was the last I saw my best friend Skip.
Greys were really big back in those days. Mum and Dad used to call them ghost Kangaroos.
Nature’s Way
This was going the back way from Glenelva to the Willows Gemfields late in the afternoon, when the sun was setting. We spotted a mother and father Emu with 12 baby chicks walking along in a paddock. What a glorious sight this was to see.
New Life
New life is about the turmoil that follows giving birth to a child. You’re so larger than life because of what you created. When your life is so destructive that little life seems to be forgotten and all that follows is a massive path of destruction that’s never ending.
One Vision
One Vision is about uniting parents, children and teachers together as a community on our wonderful country for learning which our great spirit has created for us all.
The figures across the bottom represent the people of our land joining hands, coming together to teach and hand down the knowledge to the future generations.
The hands join together as one to strive for excellence and connect to our country. They also represent when Jesus was nailed to the cross. The white circles in the centre show light of new life that Jesus gave us when he rose from his grave.
The red circles are the tracks of the children leaving their footprints on our country in sports and in culture. The blue, red and white dotted/lines represent different cultures from all walks of life coming together to learn and share at school and with our community. The design in the middle are the leaves for everything that grows on country. It’s also where parents, children, teachers and community gather to celebrate and learn more by teaching each other how to grow in life and how to connect to its peoples. The leaves also represent the crown of thorns that were placed on Jesus’s head when he sacrificed his life. The white dots show the water in the dam flowing over the spill way and washing in the Nogoa River. The cross represents The Lord Christ who gave life and light to all on this earth. And in the middle of the painting is his spirit figure walking on country guiding us
Outback Camping
My two little brothers and I spent so much time out camping. The amazing memories and fun times we made are priceless
Roses are Red
This is my Dad’s rose garden. He grew a big line of roses down one side of our property and along the front. They were so big and beautiful just like the flowers at the Melbourne Cup and they had the strongest scent. I have no idea why Mum made him dig them all out years later. Dad sure did know how to grow roses.
Sacred Ground
This is my resting place.
When I die, my ashes will be spread out on country where I belong.
My spirit will not cross over into the Dreamtime, it will stay free to roam here to protect the country I love so much.
When I have finished my work during the day, making sure it is safe, I will sit underneath the stars at night and talk with my family that have passed over.
My children and grandchildren will always know that I am there for them whenever they need me.
The Hand That Rocks the Cradle
This is about generational abuse. I have to say and to admit to who I was as a person/mother to my children a lot of the time. The abuse that my mum instilled on me, I continued to instil on my own babies. I don’t understand why we are never taught a different way of learning but instead we grow with it, just keeps getting handed down generation after generation.
Tik Tok
I have created a black and white painting called Tik Tok to represent holding time. It is made from a stopwatch and hand to show time is limited. It is about needing to live as much life as possible before our time runs out
Uluru Day
It’s always been a dream to go to Uluru. This is how I envisioned it would look like during the day. So big and beautiful with a great bright sun shining all around it showing the colours of nature.
Uluru Night
Uluru night is how I envisioned Uluru would be at night with the moon and stars light shining all over it and the spirits protecting the great rock.
When the Rains Come
We owned 5 acres of land. Dad grew small crops, but the rest of the land was mostly grass.
We had a couple of big, long drains around and through our property. Every time it rained the drains would fill up. There were millions of tadpoles in them, and I would catch them in blue ice cream containers and take them inside to mum. Boy did I get in so much trouble.
Wind Chasers
Wind Chasers represents my daughter Shannyn and 3 granddaughters Laylani, Payton and Nevaeh. It’s about setting them free from all the trauma they have endured.
They love horses, and they have gotten out of the fence and are running free leaving all their pain behind them.
Cracked vision
This is a reflection of a person becoming more evolved and a more structured version of herself. This is also my very first award winning piece.

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