September, 30 2012
Port Hedland
Ketaki Sheth

Margaret Cahill



For the first few weeks I cried when I arrived in Port Hedland, the dusty landscape seemed bleak by comparison to the lushness and colour of Broome. I believe that when you come to the Pilbara you cry, and when you leave it you cry, it literally has an energy all of its own, you look around and think there is nothing here, but it has a powerful energy. Through the Well Women’s Centre I met Kathy
Donnelly and Irene Coffin, who introduced me to acrylics and were an inspiration. Kathy was the first person who believed in me and she gave me a glow inside, made me determined to continue on, I loved the feel of paint moving on canvas.

Over the next eight years I fell in love with the colour and rugged beauty of the Pilbara, it’s amazing to see the rock formations, which are millions of years old. You can see the folds; it tells its own story. There is an active energy here, it awakens you, that is what I did with my painting, it woke something inside me and I had so many artists here, people who bounced ideas off each other. People in the Pilbara are magical, the artist community is amazing. I had always painted, but I had never been trained. I used gouache and cheap watercolour paints, I never signed the paintings, I didn’t think they were worth anything. I put no value on them, I had no confidence, the Pilbara gave me a confidence.

I was born in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland in 1954. I came to Australia when I was married with six children, there was a bad recession and we were looking for a new life. We applied in 1986 and got through in 1989, it took three years and a lot of money, it was a difficult process with many medical checks and a lot of paper work. One of the questions that my husband Jim had to answer was: Do you have a criminal record? To which he responded: Is one still necessary? Which didn’t go down too well. We arrived in Sydney during June 1989. From there, Jim got a teaching position in a small town in New South Wales.

In May 1990 we came across to Broome where he got a teaching position in the Catholic School. We had a real adventure in the Kimberley’s, we spent 15 years there, and Jim got work down here, in the Pilbara SES - at that stage I was working with a deaf student as an interpreter, he was an amazing young man and I wanted to help him get through his studies so I joined Jim later on.

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