The last few days have been snippets of experiencing the diversity of what Darwin has on offer. We have had meals at many different places, including the waterfront. Today was disappointing as many places we had earmarked were either closed on full. But we have a full list to visit next week to compensate.
at the Tactile Arts Gallery was our first port of call this morning. Situated next to the NT Museum its current exhibition explores different aspects of NT’s ecologically rich yet vulbnerable wetlands.
Jane Moore paints wildlife around wetlands and other places in Kakadu. Her soft watercolours are evocative and serene. Veronica Priestley’s silk paintings on the other hand, inspired by the wetland flora and landscape are vibrantly colourful. She is currently engaged in an artistic residency at the territory
Many other artists’ works are on display in this two week exhibition we stumbled on.
The day before we meandered around the NT Museum. There is an extensive section dedicated to the ravages of Cyclone Tracy in 1974. Darwin was decimated. I stepped into the darkened confines of a room in which I could listen to the sound of Tracy in full fury. It was the second time Darwin was destroyed. The first was during WW2 when the city was extensively bombed. Both of these events have had a profound impact on the city and its inhabitants’ psyche. More about these in a later post.
“We make lots of things at Blackstone – paintings, baskets, manguri [head rings] – it is rich country and it’s sometimes hard work to collect the grasses for making things but it’s what we love doing and what keeps us strong physically and culturally.”
Kantjupayi Benson is one of the senior weavers of around 170 who have formed the group Tjanpi (grass) Weavers. They are based in numerous small communities in the expansive spinifex country which crosses the borders of Western and South Australia and the Northern Territory.
Their central point is the small community of Blackstone, some 400km south west of Alice Springs in Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) lands lush with a wide variety of grasses.
The female-based co-operative was established in 1995 and has since become known for its weavings of imaginative figurative sculptures and colourful baskets made largely from grasses but also raffia and wool and decorated with feathers, seeds and other objects.
Her paintings display a deep sense of herself as landscape During her lifetime as a traditional healer, she also strived to paint all the rock holes, saltpans, dry lakes, hills and ritual centres that were once part of her bush life. In her paintings she ranged across a vast area of the Great Sandy Desert, filling in the sacred geography of her youth and middle years. She was capable of breathtaking work which went beyond the stereotype of Aboriginal art.
Reflected in her art work are strongly traditional qualities and influences largely unaffected by mission influence. Locally known as Queen Jilamara, she became one of the most successful Australian artists of her generation. People in a Landscape featured her work in the first group portfolio of Aboriginal prints published in 2000 subsequently touring Europe. After her death in 2003 her international reputation continued to grow. The British Museum holds six prints of her work.
This little fellow sat atop the emergency sign at the Darwin Wharf, valiantly chasing away competitors for this prime site. She had her eyes firmly fixed on our lunch of fish and chips. Much to her chagrin, she did not get to enjoy any. We were too worried that feeding her would result in a Nemo-esque feeding frenzy of “mine, mine, mine!!!”
The weather was quite pleasant along the waterfront. However, further inland, the heat hit. The days have been hovering in the low to mid 30’s the whole time we have been here. Thankfully it is dry season!
We had read about a a seafood restaurant at the Tipperary Marina called Frying Nemo. Interesting name, I thought! The brochures assured us that it was open for meals on a Sunday. However, on our arrival, it was closed for renovations till Wednesday. Like Arnie, we will be back! The marina itself was small, providing a nice haven of quiet except for some boaties who were cleaning their yachts.
We did a lot of driving around Darwin, orientating ourselves. Much to our delight, having been here for over a week now, we are beginning to recognise landmarks.
© Raili Tanska