The untold story that chronicles the thought provoking life of Southwest Aboriginal artist Revel Cooper.
May 1960. Excerpts from a letter written in Prison by Revel Cooper.
“At the age of six my mother died. Having no one to care for me I was warranted to Carrolup Native Settlement to be cared for by the state government. When I arrived at Carrolup it was just getting under way for the second time. Living conditions there were of the very lowest standards.
As a child I attended school on and off, for how long I just don’t even wish to remember. The compound gang we called ourselves consisted of boys, girls, unmarried women and countless unmarried mothers.
The dormitories were huge stone buildings, they had two rooms and one bathroom. The unmarried mothers having the room next to the boys.
In the latter part of the war we had no schooling at all. One supposedly kind superintendent to keep us out of mischief supplied us with rubber and leather to make catapults to our hearts desire. After slaughtering birds and other species of wild life (including domestic cats) the novelty wore off. Then we turned our attentions to glass windows, then we turned on one another.
Fights were numerous between women, men, boys and girls. Bad language wasn’t considered as such among us and was used as normal words in our everyday speech.
There was open love making at every corner under every tree. At the time, we saw no reason why we boys and girls should practice what we saw. The results of what we got up to at every opportunity would shock any normal present day family.
We were locked in our respective dormitories at 5pm winter and summer with no drinking water, an open sanitary bucket was placed in the centre of the floor. Being afraid of the supernatural, we were afraid to leave our beds at night. The stench of urine soaked rugs and mattresses were something that only the ones that lived in there could bare to smell.
We had our bullies among the elder boys. In the winter they visited our beds, if we had three rugs we parted with two or else. If we had one they took that for spite. We dare not report these culprits because we knew the results, no matter what we did against them we always paid”.
The migration from mission to prison to alcohol did not stop Revel Cooper from becoming a prolific artist who spoke for the rights of others, whilst playing a major role in pioneering the unique style of Noongar art that thrives and inspires artists to this day................. The writing of this script is underway.
The world is a better place when all voices are heard.
Aims & Objectives
As a result of the research and development of project Revel, various outcomes are continually in the process of being achieved.
1. A meeting including as many of Revel’s family members as possible is being held in July 2018 to talk about creating a family trust/contact group that can be referred to when people or organisations are wanting to use Revel’s artwork. So far we have Cathy Coomer (who has been advocating for this all along), Valma Williams (nee Johns), Wendy Hayden, Elaine Wallam and Sandra Hill interested in being involved. I have sent information to various other members of the family who I hope will be able to participate. This is a first and we are hoping that it may set precedent to many more to come.
2. Jan James has investigated Revel's remains at the Fawkner Cemetary in Melbourne. He is buried three plots deep in an unmarked paupers grave and Jan has worked out a way to legally exhume his remains to bring them back to Western Australia for burial if his family want it to happen.
3. The biggest Revel Cooper exhibition Revel's displaying Revels known and unknown artwork is being talked about as we uncover more artwork across the country.
4. Information about Revel are being spread far and wide to his family members who didn't know about the talents beheld by him (especially the younger generation).
5. According to Revels letters he has a daughter who was adopted out in the early 1960's. family members are discussing the possibilities of putting a legal proposition together to find her.
6. A research file including letters by Revel, about Revel, official documents, photos, newspaper clippings, paintings, sculptures, video footage, audio recordings and transcripts of those that knew him that comprise of over 1,200 documents are being given to family members and cultural curators for future generations.
7. Many modern day Noongar artists are coming forward to talk about how Revel has inspires their work.
Please watch this space for details on further outcomes that are in early stages of development.
Over the last few years a community has been and is continually being built around a nucleus of Revel's existing relatives, families of associates and friends across the country (that still hold his stories, letters and art), researchers, historians, artists, cultural consultants, university lecturers, professors, film makers, writers, art dealers, community engagement officers, curators of major museums and art galleries across Australia and their support staff.
At this stage this core but rather large group of people are the initial springboard to the distribution of the documentary ahead of any advertising or promotion strategy which will develop according to resource availability.
The project will have a life of its own online via Facebook and website linked to a Youtube channel (which we have started) presenting Revel's art, Newspaper clippings, paintings, sculpture, correspondence, poems, out takes and extra interviews from the documentary, yarns and interviews with family members and past associations in Revel's life, other writings and online links to existing information can be easily and freely accessed for purposes relating to personal enjoyment to family and cultural connection to educational courses of study and historical referencing. Our Facebook account will be set up to encourage information gathering and feedback.