Dancing Feet

A touring troupe of musical professionals visited the remote community of Jigalong so that the happy local children could rock out and make music. Our homeland is well known for its wide-open spaces, which most of us can never hope to fully explore in a single lifetime. While most of Australia's citizens can be found in any one of our diverse capital cities, some of our remotest communities are established far from the beaten track.

Jigalong is one such community, situated in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia, 110 kilometres east of Newman. In the middle of Martu country this particular community is home to the Martu (or Western Desert) people. For remote places like Jigalong, community facilities are often barely adequate, if available at all. Extra-curricular activities like music lessons might be taken for granted in larger towns, but are simply not available to the children who grow up here.

"Music equipment and programs are services are difficult to maintain due to the remoteness of the community," explains Emily Minchin, a spokesperson for the Desert Feet Tour charity. "Good equipment is expensive and has to be transported long distances to get to the community and then you need to know how to care for it so that it lasts, especially in the remote desert where there is a lot of dust and extreme temperatures," Emily says.

Without access to equipment, or people with expert knowledge to share, the kids in Jigalong don't have the opportunity to learn or play musical instruments as often as their peers in the city, who might get to attend a weekly music lesson or school band practice. So, when Box Magazine offered our Autumn/Winter 14 supermodel cover girl, Erin Heatherton, and talented expat photographer Russell James the opportunity to support an Australian children’s charity as part of the ONLY photo shoot, the pair were excited to lend a hand to Desert Feet.

Desert Feet’s mission is to bring music, dancing, and performance activities to remote communities in a bid to stimulate the cultural arts and provide the children with an outlet for expression through performance. In April, the Desert Feet Tour brought music to the community of Jigalong, thanks to Erin, Russell, and Box Magazine subscribers. The photo shoot funded a tour to the Jigalong community, where the kids learned how to play instruments and made music videos in their native language.

Not only did they get to learn from professionals using high-quality resources, the videos will also help preserve the Martu language and culture for future generations. Without the work of Desert Feet Tour Inc, the children in Jigalong wouldn't experience the benefits that musical expression can provide. "Music encourages teamwork, confidence, self esteem, and a healthy and constructive outlet," Emily says. "It is an empowering experience for anyone who participates."

Troy Barbagallo