Greenest spot in the desert

This month’s Artist blog features Sean Bahr-Kelly from Barkly Arts Media Mob in Tennant Creek.

Sean Bahr-Kelly on location for Lindy Brodie documentary

“It’s not a good story … but a couple of years ago I was waking up in the gutter … a lady pulled up in a bus and handed me a piece of paper inviting me for an interview the next day”

This is how twenty year old Sean Bahr-Kelly recounts his late teens, which saw him living on the street in Tennant Creek with no money, when a chance invitation to join Barkly Arts changed his life. Sean turned up for the interview and was offered a traineeship with Media Mob where he developed a passion for photography, video production and acting.

Media Mob began as a partnership between Julalikari Council and Barkly Arts in which four young people received twelve weeks intensive media training with Shayne Johnson and produced a brilliant variety of work. In 2014, Media Mob won the ‘Best Indigenous Film’ and the ‘Best Body of Work’ at the Fist Full of Films competition and ‘Best Visual Recording’ at the National Remote Indigenous Media Festival.


Sean Bahr-Kelly with ‘Fist Full of Films’ awards

Media Mob’s prolific output which includes video postcards, film clips for local musicians, and two upcoming longer documentaries illustrates the energy and value created by this program. The video postcards were produced as part of ABC open workshops with David Nixon. Sean’s postcard ‘The Greenest spot in the desert’ is about being a young man and taking one’s own path outside the familiar.

Sean continues working with Barkly Arts Media Mob and receives daily practical training in web design, still photography, video, editing, graphic design, social media and sound recording with mentor and Media Mob trainer Lincoln MacKinnon.

Artist Dion Beasley and Sean working on a digital mapping project

Artist Dion Beasley and Sean working on a digital mapping project

Like most artists Sean worries about the quality of his work and it’s evident that he reflects on his own practice. Last year he got in front of the camera as a roving reporter for National Youth Week and in post production spent lots of time agonizing and overworking the edit. In the end he realised that his work was unique and indeed was the only video documentary of the event and therefore valuable. He said that he “originally under-valued himself” but is becoming more confident the more projects he is involved with.


Media Mob filming ‘Eleanor Dixon’ video postcard

Sean likes being in front of the camera and is now considering acting opportunities. Last year another of his mentors, Barkly Arts Artistic Director, Kathy Burns, sent an audition tape to the producers of the ABC comedy series ‘MMM Aboriginal Radio’ and Sean landed a role in the first two episodes which were shot in Alice Springs. Sean told us he can be seen wearing a cowboy hat in the first episode and an black beanie in the second.

Along with producing and acting Sean is also taking on leadership roles. Recently he travelled to Canberra to work with the ABC Heywire team as a Youth Mentor. He met with young people from around the country and together they developed ideas aimed at positive change in their communities. Sean’s group came up with the campaign ‘You don’t need drinks to dance’ to encourage young people to party in a healthy way.

Back home in Tennant Creek Media mob is currently working on the post-production of a film documenting a family from the Barkly community of Munekarta as they return to their homeland of Walapunpa after 30 years away. The film focuses on a four day cultural camp and was initiated when Audrey, a Walapunpa woman, approached Barkly Arts telling the story of the younger generation who only knew their homelands through paintings made in Tennant Creek. ‘Munekarta Living Culture’ will preview soon at Munekarta before being available on the Barkly Arts vimeo channel


On location for ‘Mungkarta Living Culture’

Though Barkly Arts Media Mob Sean has had the opportunity to raise his voice and emerge as a young artist and leader in his community and beyond.

Thanks Sean Bahr-Kelly and Media Mob trainer Lincoln MacKinnon for sharing your story with us.

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