When the Australian War Memorial's official artist Megan Cope went to the Middle East war zone, cultures bumped into each other in lots of ways.
"It's a very different world from my studio," she said.
She feels she is a woman of peace. "I was really, really out of my comfort zone," she said. "Aboriginal people have never invaded anyone.
"We did defend our country and we did fight British forces but it's not in our nature to go to war," she told The Canberra Times.
So she and the air force people she was deployed to fly with as an official war artist talked a lot.
She said they had a mutual respect.
She does not create conventional work, applying paint to canvass. Instead, she draws on old maps and symbols to make montages which she hopes make people think.
"A lot of soldiers were curious about why I wasn't there to paint portraits so we did have a lot of conversations about power and contested sites."
As an official war artist, she was based at an air force base in the United Arab Emirates, one of the hubs for Australian forces operating across what must be the most dangerous series of war zones in the world.
She flew in an RAAF KC-30, a large, flying fuel tanker used to refuel fighter aircraft - it's a version of the Airbus A330 which many commercial airlines use for passengers.
As an Aboriginal person, the artist was struck by the ancient sites she flew over in Syria, Turkey and Iraq. The river valley and plains around the Euphrates was where people first lived in towns and developed agriculture.
"As an Aboriginal person, I'm interested in other ancient culture," she said.
She is particularly struck by old colonial maps in Australia - and now in the Middle East. She thinks they reveal something about the way the economy was developed - what the priorities were.
In the Middle East, she looked at and adapted maps from the 1900s showing ports and railways in an economy driven by the Western development of oil fields.
She said the old maps "showed the complexities of the region" - current boundaries between countries were drawn by Westerners with little recognition of ethnic groupings - borders cut through populations which speak the same language and share a religion; they bundle together peoples with little in common.
The artist was particularly drawn to the maps and symbols which appeared on screens in front of the pilots.
She has reproduced an old map with modern symbols on silk in a method similar to the way the old maps were made.
"All of those symbols were discussed and shared on that flight that we took in the KC-30," she said. "They're all symbols that the pilots have on their screens as they are flying."
The deployment as an artist has made her think a lot.
"What has bothered me since returning is our reliance on fossil fuel industries. It alarms me. That's essentially why we are there," she said.
"I thought that after World War Two, the West had left the Middle East but that's not the case," she said.
As she re-adjusts to her life back in her studio on Minjerribah(North Stradbroke Island) off the coast of Queensland, near Brisbane, she said that the realisation of the dependence on oil has reinforced a belief in a more "natural" life.
"My father is a real bushman. I've lived a natural life. I didn't grow up in the city and it's made me want to return to that life."
She does not come over as anti-military - or not as anti the people who sign up to do whatever fighting they are ordered to do. She does not have a bad word for the air force personnel she met.
After all, her great-great uncle was a soldier who fought in Gallipoli. He was what she calls a "black digger".
Private Richard Martin enlisted in December, 1914 (though he had to lie about his Aboriginal background to do so - he said he was from Dunedin in New Zealand).
He served in Gallipoli and in Europe in some of the grimmest battles, at Bullecourt, Messines and Passchendaele. He was wounded three times in the service of an Australia which barely recognised his existence and died in battle in March, 1918.
His memory was preserved by her great grandmother and great aunt so his presence was great in the family history.
Despite having to not tell the truth about his background in order to enlist, being a soldier was a good job for an Aboriginal man.
"For our people, in those days the military was the only job where they weren't discriminated against in terms of wages. There wasn't much work and it was considered an honourable job."
So when the offer came from the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, she took it. She asked her grandmother. "She said it was a great honour to join the armed forces in the Middle East and witness their work."