Inspired by Mother Earth
Enchanted by the history & culture of the Kimberley region
Created by Jessica Duff - Wyndham, Western Australia
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Jessica Duff - 2016

                                       AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY

How strange to read my Website after all these years. What a journey it has been. The Earth Walk cards are now all over the world and I get many messages from people saying how much they have helped and how awesome they are. I have given them to my long term friend Sarah Brett who is about to reproduce them as we ran out of copies years ago. I have never stopped using them and still have my original dog eared pack.  From the amount of recent contact with other users it seems that they are needed again and Sarah believes they are now ready for rebirth.  Mostly though I have painted stories given to me from the land. This has given me both a great life and one of sickness because as much as the energies and ancestors of this great land ask me to paint the stories I seem unable to protect myself against the things I paint out. I am still here though!

I just completed a work with Kimberley photographer Ben Broadwith. I walked into some country North of Kununurra with Ben and instead of the land asking me to paint a picture I walked into a whole story. The journey to paint it has been amazing and Ben and I have made it into a book which you will find here for sale along with my paintings and his photography.

The following is an intro I intended to put into the book but then Ben and I decided the book was not about him or I but about the land so I never did put it in. I add it here as information for you:
I want to start this story with,  ‘And it came to pass,’ or, ‘Once upon a time,’ because most of the time I feel so old, so not in this time, so not part of the way things are today that a modern way of trying to express my art doesn’t feel right.  I spend hours watching the hazy movement of energy swirling around me, listening and absorbing the whisperings of ancient spirits in my ears. The paintings I paint are something I come across in a way that seems random. I don’t think about it too much but a friend Jimmy Lewis explained his song writing to me once by saying, “I don’t write them Jessie, I walk into them and there they are.” I liked that because it removed the ego and was just how I felt about my art. I am walking in the bush and I walk into a picture and feel the vibrations as they whisper, “Paint me,” and I am filled with the story. I just happen to be there at the time, as it is for Jimmy Lewis when the vibrations  say ‘sing me’, or to  Ben Broadwith, ’photograph me.’ Certainly we all have one thing in common; we stop to listen to the whisperings of an ancient time. It’s in the trees and in the earth and in the rocks and here in the Kimberley there seem to be many ancient spirits waiting for someone to come by and find their stories.

Yet here I sit, in a modern society, working a machine that defies all the laws of balance known to the ancients. A machine that challenges every natural law of nature, whose components are undoubtedly responsible for wiping out the habitats and lives of other creatures sharing this planet.  My actions feel, at the least, hypocritical  as I check my phone, drive my car, use my washing machine, switch on my lights and a million other things in daily life that are slowly killing this planet. I try; I really do, to be aware of this earth and the damage I cause. In truth I am no less guilty than anyone else. I live as simply as I can without being as miserable as hell and I practice every day getting in touch with the small pin point of light within my heart and say to myself, ‘come from there Jes in everything you do today, come from there….’ I try - I stuff up - I try again and so my life goes along.

My name is Jessica Duff and I was born in a small sea side village in South England. I am possibly quite crazy, rather eccentric or from some alien planet that got rid of me for being ‘wayward.’ I know this because I keep asking them to come and get me and they never do.

I am no prophet or ‘chosen one.’ I am no different from anyone else.  I choose to listen to ancient laws that are available for anyone to hear. Please presume whatever you wish about my sanity and credibility, I don’t give a toss because I know myself and that is all I find necessary.  I have seen, heard and listened to energy for as long as I remember. My childhood in the small coastal town of West Wittering in south England was pages full of poetry and songs about the earth and creatures, (and of course lonely moors and unrequited love).  I painted and wrote my own alchemy cards which I use to uncover the truth of our hidden side.   I have travelled widely and I have loved many times. My forever love who travelled time to be with me chose not to stay and I thought ‘suicide?’ and the ancients said, ‘We have a job for you.’ Touch and go - the fact I know that if we don’t do what we are meant to do in this life we get to come back and do it again caused me to hesitate.

My incredible friends who I went to say ‘goodbye’ to, had horror reactions.  In my world the greatest lie we tell ourselves is that other people’s lives are in any way ‘our business. “Of course it is” they say, “We love you.” Whatever the reason they were hell bent on keeping me here and so here I am. Enough about me, none of this is about me, this is a story about the book and how it came about.

Many years ago I was living in a little town in the middle of the Kimberley called Halls Creek. I had been gold prospecting and living with Mark Rose and I became very sick with Ross River Virus. I remember the night it hit we were camping in Osmond Valley and I had a series of nightmares like no others and seriously shat my way through the 3 days we were there. Then came the pain! Two years of absolute hell which I won’t go into, poor Mark is all I can say! A lovely old black fella called Sandy Cox, since diseased, but still helping, said to me, “paint the dots my girl, paint the dots and you will heal, paint the dots and you will heal us all.” I was given canvas and paint and did a painting, simple as that, I painted, I forgot, I healed and I have been painting ever since. I paint for people who have lost beloved animals, I paint to heal the earth and I paint to make people smile. I painted the alchemy cards based on ancient writings from the 14th century and indigenous journeys. I painted a series of pictures on the Kimberley massacres to heal up the gaps in the song lines, (which I have dedicated to Sandy Cox and Kerry Anne Cox (Jinky), Stanley’s granddaughter), and I paint peoples stories as I see and feel them.

At my saddest time when I sat hour after hour, day after day, week after week on my friend Sarah Brett’s balcony, smoking dope and cigarettes, crying like I was back in menopause and waiting for aliens to come and beam me up, a friend, (thank you Kym Shepard), turned up and insisted I go to look at some very ancient and spectacular land. The rock art there stays in my head to this day, it is about birth and life and I went back alone to absorb the images and feelings around me and knew I had not just walked into a painting but an entire story was laid before me asking to be painted for the world to see. This was undoubtedly a job I was being asked to do and I began to trust again in my journey on this earth.

At this time I met the lovely Ben Broadwith and we walked into the land together.  Ben is a Kimberley photographer and I have had the privaledge of watching him work. I love his work but most of all I love how he feels the land. He understands and works with the vibrations.
I moved to an old shop in Wyndham Port, put a bed in the back and began to paint. I would wake at random, 1am, 2am, or 3am always having been dragged so my feet were on the floor at the end of the bed. I never felt it happen I would just know it was time to get up and paint….up and paint. One night I woke up with the loudest words in my head, “you are painting to take a message to the world….someone will help you…..”  

And so ‘Ancient Whisperings’ was born. In my paintings Ben is the one you see walking the branches of the grand old Boab with the rainbow snake. She is whispering her thoughts to him. We are a good combination, I see the images and Ben hears the words.

The paintings in this book are dedicated to all my friends and supporters who believed in me. There are seriously too many of you…Allan Symes has been a friend and patron of my work from day one. He has recently fixed my car and Jane McFarlane has just registered that car, Gerald Mills got a loan and gave me the car and comes to the studio and feeds me when I forget to eat as well as spending hours of his time helping me. Sarah Brett worries about me and gave me a room in both her houses, whenever I need them - forever.  She is currently reproducing my alchemy cards though her site ‘Spirit of the Boabs.’ Erna and Martin Jarvis give me holiday breaks in their beautiful Darwin house which is where I write this, sitting in my downstairs self-contained room, looking out over the pool feeling so incredibly cared for and luxurious. I am family here as I am at Sarah’s as I am at Gerald’s and as I am at Alan’s.

When I chose to go back to Wyndham to paint it was a whole community that welcomed me back and looked out for me. Paul and Norma Cavanaugh paid my rent on the shop, Freddy Mills put up curtain rails and mended gaps, Kymbo Shepard drove from Kununurra to help me paint, Chris Shaw and Desanka Mijovic gave me old tables and household items, Di and Ian Oliver gave me a bed, Sue French gave me $2,000, Chris Shaw made me 12 large canvases, Bec and Cali Bugg from Artopia Gallery in Kununurra supported me to the hilt as did Penny Haley from Penny’s Prints. The lovely Ben Broadwith became my friend and understood me. He actually ‘Got me’ and my connections without ever uttering the words. Mick Warner became my friend with no intent to change me, judge me, question me or alter my path in any way. He spends endless hours playing chess with me and loves me for exactly who I am which can be challenging at the best of times.  Thankyou Gill Egan for making me my beautiful easels and Terry Bin-Buss for giving me some glasses so I could see the canvases. Rosco and Jum bring me plates of yummy local barramundi and rice dishes for weekend breakfasts and thankyou Camden Smith and Julie Maloney for being my friends.

I have just written a 100th of the help I received in a few months of my life. It has been like this forever. I thank all the people I haven’t mentioned and give thanks for all the journeys we have taken together and the creatures, the glorious creatures that have been with me along this way.  You know who you are please understand I have become slightly overwhelmed writing this.

Thankyou Les Evans for your friendship, my crazy family, Wendy Lewis my dear friend who really needs to be right up there at the top of the list and Wendy Carter who has been there in so many ways, Brad Vincent who denied me the right to be with him, (I am aware I would not be doing this if you had wanted me to stay). Then there was John Flynn, who put this website together for me. A friend of Alan Symes, I had never met you and you never asked for payment. Here you are doing it all again because you believe in anything that helps towards a better world. Peter Day from Many Rivers and Anita Sutherland from Kimberley Small Business Support So many people all who believe in me so much more than I believe in myself.  

 I remember who packed my parachute, thanks and smile.

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All artwork copyright of Alan Symes - Darwin, Australia 2002