Author(s): Robin Coles
I have written this account of the Peramangk Peoples' Culture and art after much reflection on the need to preserve the existing records. My first encounter with Peramangk art came by chance when a policeman introduced himself to me on returning a house key. He spoke of his recent visit to an Aboriginal art site near Rockleigh in the eastern Mount Lofty ranges. I was fascinated by his account. The policeman's description of the paintings inspired me to find it as soon as possible. Eventually in the region east of Mount Torrens I located a fenced rock shelter situated near a prominent hill. There I took some photographs of the faint red-ochre images present on the wall. At the end of the day I could feel a desire to continue looking for other art sites in the Mount Lofty Ranges. The passion continued even after the devastating Ash Wednesday fire in 1984 that destroyed almost everything I possessed. Luckily through preplanning I had stored all my photographs in the laboratory where I worked at the Waite Institute near Urrbrae. After I found the original colour slides that I had taken of the Rockleigh art site. This was the beginning of my private research into the Aboriginal culture of the Mount Lofty Ranges which included Transactions of the Royal Society, the Proceedings and Records of the South Australian Museum and the Royal Society.The Field Naturalist Society journals where I discovered a wealth of information about the art of Peramangk people. Then I went to a property at Eden Valley where a cluster of paintings had been previously described in 1926. I eventually met the owner who told me about the sites on his land. I recorded the red and white-ochre figures for the first time using colour slide film as depicted in this book. Through my contacts with the Aboriginal Heritage Branch of South Australia, I learnt that there was a Peramangk descendant called Jerry Mason who lived at Loxton. I arranged to meet him in order to discuss my findings. He informed me that I must meet Richard Hunter at Mannum and discuss the work. Richard was also a Peramangk. Whilst I was driving home I realised it was important to inform others about the Peramangk heritage. Sadly one day while I was working in the Riverland by the River Murray I read an Advertiser newspaper article and learnt of Jerry's death. It was now imperative to communicate further with Richard Hunter. Richard and I became close friends and we regularly visited art sites in the Mount Lofty Ranges. We also conducted guided tours to some sites. Richard was an inspiration for this work and I clearly remember him saying that, 'recording this and what is left is for our children and for the future generations, and you must always involve me in what ever you find'. This conversation has remained in my mind ever since. Richard and I regularly spoke about the various fringe groups who felt they had a right to capitalize on the Peramangk's culture. At the end of recording we had documented seventy two art sites, the majority recorded for the first time.