When I met fellow Australian Russell James I was drawn to a flame burning bright in him that was lit by something genuine.
It was a flame that's now become a fire. In Australia a campfire in the bush is a place to share stories and I feel Russell has built a whopper blaze where Aboriginal Australians, Native Americans, Haitians and suburban boys like me can share their stories, their art and their lives.
My parents were 'ten pound Poms'- English settlers who got a cheap boat to Australia as part of a 'populate or perish' program. Back then, when I was just a twinkle in their eye, my homeland was seen as a 'new country' that needed more people to grow and prosper. Aboriginal Australians weren't even counted as 'people' let alone consulted about the future of their ancient land.
While growing up in Sydney I had virtually zero exposure to indigenous culture, bar an odd book or a rock painting on a bushwalk. At university I became exposed to our dark history with its mistreatment of our indigenous people and I grew keen to explore Aboriginal Australia.
When I was nineteen I went to work in Areyonga, a community two hundred kilometres from Uluhru or Ayres Rock - the spectacular natural monument in our nation's heart. This was my first exposure to Aboriginal culture and I realised that the people were happy, content and living a way of life I really admired. The combination of being with such wonderful folk and feeling so connected to the landscape opened up an entirely new understanding about life. I felt I grew up in that place and I'd never before felt so happy. I'd probably still be there if my Dad hadn't convinced me to come home and finish university.
The experience stayed with me forever. So, many years later, when the Australian Prime Minister apologised to our Aboriginal community for past wrong doings I felt it was one of the greatest days in my country's history. I felt it in my heart.
I know Russell James felt the same; it's clear his motivation for Nomad Two Worlds was real, humble and inspired. It's also been empowered by a kinship with Aboriginal Elder Olive Knight. When I spend time with Olive I feel in the presence of a mother of a nation. So in 2011, when I created a one-man show and set out to convey some of my feelings about Australia, I wanted Olive, together with artists Paul Boon and Nate Mundraby, to join me on stage. Together we performed a version of 'Somewhere over rainbow' combining our voices, the sound of didgeridoo and images of Australia. When the audience got to its feet I felt a communal desire for all of us to share this planet in a harmonious peaceful responsible way.
It's been one of the most powerful things I've ever been involved with on stage and I'm forever grateful to Olive, Paul and Nathan and the work of Nomad Two Worlds. I feel blessed to be part of a collaboration that works for reconciliation through culture. It's moved and changed me as a person.
My roots may be firmly in Australia but I'm now an urban nomad. All nomads find themselves faced with a profound yet simple truth – in order to go forward we must reconcile our past.
In a collaborative world, all of us become an unstoppable force for good. Nomad Two Worlds is not just about reconciliation; it helps improve self-esteem, community economics, health care, education and a sustainable approach for challenged world.
I hope when you see Russell's photographs and the work of so many wonderful artists in this book and when you hear how the journey of one man became a movement for powerful change you will join our journey towards reconciliation. Please come sit. There's plenty of room around this campfire.