Local painting for Clinton Pryor

AT HOME: Jack Featherstone discusses meeting Clinton Pryor at his home in Braidwood. Photo: Elspeth Kernebone.
AT HOME: Jack Featherstone discusses meeting Clinton Pryor at his home in Braidwood. Photo: Elspeth Kernebone.

On Thursday Braidwood’s Jack Featherstone presented Clinton Pryor with one of his paintings.

After nearly being knocked back by security outside the Tent Embassy in Canberra, Mr Featherstone managed to fluke a meeting with Mr Pryor hours before he left Canberra.

The pair met for just long enough for Mr Featherstone to present the painting, and to despair of politicians’ unwillingness to discuss Indigenous affairs.

When he first heard an Aboriginal man was going to walk from Perth to Canberra, Mr Featherstone was impressed, having travelled part of the route in his youth in a Volkswagen. He sees Mr Pryor as having a lot in common with his younger self’s determination.

“He had the audacity, he had that audacity, and I thought, here’s a bloke, and I have a lot in common with him,” Mr Featherstone said.

As a dentist in his youth, Mr Featherstone travelled around the region collecting saliva samples from Indigenous communities eating bush tucker, before working in the Redfern Clinic for ten years. As a young man he was fascinated with explorers, consuming the biographies of Gibson, Wills and the like.

It took the trauma of his father’s death to inspire him to paint, which he has been doing since 1966.

“My brain functions more productively after a severe trauma,” Mr Featherstone said. 

“My mother was an artist, grandmother was an artist, my elder sister was an artist, it’s in the genes. But it took a trauma, when my father died for it to come out.”

When he heard of Mr Pryor’s walk, he decided to create a painting to honour him.

“He was, one man decided he’s going to meet PM Turnbull in Canberra, that’s his ambition, that was his sense of destiny, that was his sense of purpose,” Mr Featherstone said.

“He knew he could do it. And a person of lesser stature would have turned back, but not this bloke.”

On one of his daily walks up Mount Gillamatong Mr Featherstone was inspired with the image of a cloud framed between two eucalypts.

Lettering on the cloud says “Indigenous Aussies Walk for Justice Clinton Pryor,” with Aboriginal people in the foreground holding their hands up to acknowledge him.

“I felt quite honoured when I met him. You get that sense you’re in the presence of somebody who’s out of the ordinary,” Mr Featherstone said.