Dreamtime | Denise Schiavone

Outside Amoonguna, my guide pointed to the dogs loose—running, barking among pantless, dusty children who wove between mattresses lain in yards and pots hung over campfire pits. Inside the gates, little ones ran to tug on our trouser legs. At my hip, a small ebony face crusted with dried snot, teeth glinting in the midday sun as I pressed two pieces of butterscotch into his palm.

We strolled past trash piles and over blankets rumpled in the dirt. My camera captured two toddlers; cheeks stretched wide by a pair of grins, bobbing in an inner tube—their pool, a rusty bathtub sunk into the scorched earth. A moon-faced woman squatted over a low smoky fire. Needle in hand, she burned holes through gum nuts, seared designs into red beans, and threaded beads onto string. All for a fraction of the profit from the jewelry sale in town.

Nearby I came upon my artist, a weary woman on a cement porch, wailing baby in her lap. She signed her Dreamtime depiction. My cost: a third of the gallery price. I peeled the bills from my satchel without the haggling my guide advised. Painting in hand, I peered through the wire fence to the desert beyond: slashes of red sierra, sparse clumps of green brush, parched brown horizon, stretching for miles.

 

 

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