Aboriginal artists return to renowned workshop in Mittagong

Posted December 14, 2017 16:52:04

It was the early 1970s when five young women from the remote Ernabella community in South Australia travelled from the deep desert to the lush Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

There they undertook a ground-breaking weaving residency at the Sturt Workshop in Mittagong.

Now, nearly 50 years later, a group of Ernabella artists, including one of the original women, has returned to the Sturt Workshop to showcase their vibrant art.

The exhibition, In These Hands, also marks the 70-year anniversary of Ernabella Arts, the oldest Indigenous art centre in Australia.

No time to be homesick

Wandering through the grounds of the Sturt Gallery, Atipalku Intjalku recalls her experience as a wide-eyed teenage girl out of her community for the first time to attend the 1972 residency.

“I’m remembering all the people that helped me, and the good times that we had here at Sturt,” Intjalku said.

“Was I homesick? Simply put, no.

“There was so much to learn, everything was new and exciting, everything was different — the trees, the food, the weather, the people and even what we wore!

“I was here for a long time, a few months, learning to weave on a new kind of loom, and a different kind of coloured wool, not the plain white and grey fleece wool that we used from the shearers in Ernabella.”

Historic connection

The sister relationship between Ernabella and Sturt was forged from a chance meeting at the Spinners and Weavers Association in Sydney in the mid to late 1960s.

Winifred Hilliard, Ernabella’s craft room advisor, and artist Nyukama (Daisy) Baker were in town attending an Association workshop.

Sturt’s master weaver Elisabeth Nagel, who was also present, was intrigued by the pair and by Baker’s art.

Their initial conversations sparked a lifelong friendship between the three women and forged the unique relationship between the two art centres.

In 1968, at Ms Hilliard’s invitation, Nagel travelled by mail plane from Alice Springs to the missionary community of Ernabella, on APY Lands, surrounded by stunning desert country.

Nagel was impressed by the work coming out of the art centre, and by the spirit of the community, and hatched a plan to have some of the young Ernabella women come to the Sturt workshop to extend their knowledge and skills in weaving.

Creativity blossomed with confidence

Slavica Zivkovic, co-curator of the In These Hands exhibition, spoke with a now elderly Nagel to gain an insight into the residencies that took place in 1971 and 1972.

“Elisabeth Nagel recalled that the young Ernabella women were immediately delighted by the great skeins of colourful commercial wool hanging in the studio,” Ms Zivkovic said.

“At first, Nagel’s weaving instructions were purely about technique — such as warping that required accurate counting methods — and the young women needed constant support.

“But as the young artists slowly grew with quiet confidence, their creativity blossomed.

“In the evening, the artists would do their coloured-pencil Walka drawings — patterns based on their surroundings.

“These would be translated into tapestries and floor rugs, incorporating a thread palette selected by the artists.

“The young artists became very much a part of the Sturt family and for Nagel, the residencies were not just about teaching techniques, but encouraging self-development and acceptance of culture.”

Intjalka has her own fond memories of Nagel from the 1972 residency.

“Miss Nagel looked after us the whole time,” she said.

“She taught us weaving and we taught her a little of our own language, Pitjantjara.

“On the weekends, sometimes we travelled by train to Sydney, we went to the harbour and caught a boat to the zoo.”

Australia’s oldest Indigenous arts centre

The skills and life experience the young artists gained at Sturt helped to shape the direction of Ernabella Arts, and continue to have influence as their knowledge is passed onto the next generation.

Original Sturt residency weaver Atipalku Intjalka has been accompanied on her return trip by several Ernabella artists who are visiting their sister arts centre for the first time.

They include ceramicist and exhibition co-curator Alison Milyika Carroll, ceramicist Lynette Lewis, and current chair of Ernabella Arts Tjunkaya Tapaya.

Tapaya is quietly proud of Ernabella Arts’ achievements.

“The Ernabella craft room started in 1948, the year before I was born, and it was the first art centre of its kind in Australia,” she said.

“When it first started it was only for women, and they were spinning sheep wool and making rugs and as I watched on as a little girl, I decided that would be the work I would do when I grew up.

“Then a new craft room was built, and then the young girls, young boys, and men started coming in to learn art and learning from the old people.

“Over the years, Ernabella artists have created work using many different materials and methods, including weaving, fibre arts, ceramics, and now painting as well.”

Art carries stories for next generation

As they move the through the Sturt Gallery, getting a sneak preview of the exhibition, the visiting Ernabella artists reflect on their art works.

Both Intjalka and Tapaya practice Tjanpi weaving, using natural desert grasses, seeds and feathers, together with commercially-bought raffia, string, and wool to create dioramas and large-scale installation sculptures.

“In the missionary time, we’d all go to church so I’m remembering this time from when I was a kid,” Tapaya said of a beautiful little church she has crafted.

Carroll said she feels it is all about the stories contained within the art.

“Telling stories, you know, stories, Tjukurpa,” she said.

“When we paint, and weave, and make art, we talk to the young people about Tjukurpa, dreamtime stories, and the stories are in the canvas and ceramics.

“Now it’s getting big for young people to work and learn about arts.

“When we’re gone, the art centre will be still there for our young people to make beautiful things for our future — the young people.”

In These Hands, Celebrating 70 Years of Ernabella Arts, runs at the Sturt Gallery in Mittagong until February 11, 2018.

Topics: contemporary-art, visual-art, arts-and-entertainment, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, indigenous-culture, community-and-society, library-museum-and-gallery, art-history, women, ernabella-0872, mittagong-2575, alice-springs-0870, sydney-2000

French farewell ‘the biggest rock star you’ve never heard of’

Updated December 10, 2017 12:55:00

France bid farewell to its biggest rock star Johnny Hallyday with an extravagant funeral procession down Paris’ Champs-Elysees Avenue, a presidential speech and a televised church ceremony filled with the country’s most famous faces.

Key points:

  • 1,500 police were on duty to secure the area around the funeral procession
  • French President Emmanuel Macron delivered an eulogy
  • Hallyday died age 74 after a battle with lung cancer

Few figures in French history have earned a send-off with as much pomp as the man dubbed the “French Elvis,” who notched more than 110 million in record sales since rising to fame in the 1960s.

Hallyday died at 74 after fighting lung cancer.

In an honour usually reserved for heads of state or literary giants like 19th-century novelist Victor Hugo, Hallyday’s funeral cortege rode past Napoleon’s Arc de Triomphe monument and down the Champs-Elysees to the Place de la Concorde plaza on the Seine River.

Hundreds of motorcyclists accompanied the procession in a nod to the lifelong passion that Hallyday, born Jean-Philippe Smet, had for motorcycles. His biker image included signature leather jackets and myriad tattoos.

French President Emmanuel Macron — a Hallyday fan himself, like three generations of others across the French-speaking world — delivered an eulogy on the steps of Paris’ Madeleine Church for the star known to the public affectionately by only one name.

“Johnny belonged to you. Johnny belonged to his public. Johnny belonged to his country,” Mr Macron said.

“He should have fallen a hundred times, but what held him up and lifted him was your fervour, the love,” add Mr Macron, referring to the star’s health troubles and famously excessive lifestyle.

Hallyday’s death unleashed a wave of emotion across France, where he had been a symbol of national identity and stability for more than half a century — even though his private life had been far from stable.

Aside from the drinking, smoking and partying chronicled in juicy detail by the French press, Hallyday had been linked to a string of glamorous women and had married five times.

About 1,500 police officers secured the area in Paris, a police helicopter flew overhead and emergency vehicles filled nearby streets as tens of thousands of fans lined the procession route.

Many dressed to emulate Hallyday’s flashy, rebellious style. Some climbed on fences, stoplights, and even the roof of a luxury hotel to get a better view.

Dubbed by some as “the biggest rock star you’ve never heard of” — Hallyday’s position as one of the greatest-selling musical artists of all time is unusual as he remained largely unknown outside the Francophone world. But in France, he influenced styles, music and even children’s names.

Laura Dublot, a 30-year-old Parisian, and her brother David are among many who were named after Hallyday’s older children, Laura and David.

“He’s a national icon. This scale of funeral is not surprising — he’s united three generations of French,” Ms Dublot said.

Hallyday likely would have approved of this send-off, having told French media he dreaded the idea of an isolated funeral like the one he attended for his father in 1989.

He is survived by his wife Laeticia, two of his former wives, four children and three grandchildren.


Topics: death, community-and-society, arts-and-entertainment, music, history, art-history, france

First posted December 10, 2017 12:51:19

Spacey accused of groping Norwegian King’s son-in-law

Posted December 09, 2017 14:53:33

The former husband of the King of Norway’s daughter says actor Kevin Spacey groped him during the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo.

Ari Behn, who was married to Princess Martha Louise, the daughter of King Harald, for 14 years, told Norwegian radio Spacey sat next to him at the event.

“We had a great talk,” Mr Behn was quoted by the BBC as saying on Norwegian radio station P4.

“After five minutes he said, ‘Hey, let’s go out and have a cigarette’. Then he puts his hand under the table and grabs me …”

He said he declined Spacey’s approach by saying “maybe later”.

Behn, 45, married Martha Louise, fourth in line to the Norwegian throne, in 2002.

Last year, they decided to split but share custody of their three daughters.

Spacey, who was co-hosting the December event in 2007 has faced numerous sexual misconduct and assault allegations, but he has remained mostly silent.

He came under fire for coming out as gay in his apology to actor Anthony Rapp, with members of the LGBTI community saying he was “deflecting” from Rapp’s allegations.

Rapp, known for his roles in Rent and Star Trek: Discovery, has alleged Spacey made a sexual advance towards him when he was aged 14, and Spacey 26.

The embattled actor, who has won two Oscars, was also dropped from his lead role in Netflix series House of Cards.

Netflix severed ties with Spacey in November, announcing his former co-star Robin Wright would take the lead in the series’ final season in 2018.

ABC and wires

Topics: sexual-offences, arts-and-entertainment, film-movies, law-crime-and-justice, community-and-society, norway, united-states

Melbourne Museum turns itself ‘inside out’, displaying usually hidden items

Posted December 09, 2017 06:00:46

It’s easy to get lost in the maze of hallways and rooms which contain Melbourne Museum’s hidden archive of treasures.

Some of the items in the 17-million-piece collection are so precious, finger print technology is used to open locked doors.

But once you’re in, there’s no telling what you might find.

“The museums are like an iceberg, there’s only the very, very tip ever on display,” Museums Victoria’s chief executive Lynley Marshall said.

“Most of the public never get to see what is stored in this museum, because there’s not more than 1 per cent of the collection on display at any one time.

“So when you get to see all these objects, you have a sense of ‘I wish more people could see more of this’.”

A new exhibition called Inside Out aims to display some of the most special items re-discovered by curators.

Some pieces have never been seen by the public.

Among them:

  • A cabinet of more than 200 taxidermied humming birds collected by famous English ornithologist John Gould.
  • An collection of 13,000 eggs from Australian birds, collected by Henry Luke White.
  • A silver dress designed by Prue Action in 1985.
  • A taxidermied collection of rare birds and other animals.
  • Precious stones which have long been hidden in the geology department.

A taxidermied Tasmanian tiger which was acquired by Hobart Zoo is also going to be put on display.

Steven Sparrey, the manager of the museum’s preparation department, has spent weeks restoring the specimen.

“The actual specimen itself is in quite good condition, and tells a lovely story about how taxidermists would have worked on and prepared these specimens a long time ago,” he said.

“We haven’t got a huge amount of these specimens as part of our collection, so it’s really important what we do have is in the best possible condition they can be in.”

The public will be able to see the 350 carefully selected items when the exhibition opens just before Christmas.

“You are going to see the most incredible collection of objects,” Ms Marshall said.

“That’s what bringing the behind the scenes out, turning the museum inside out, means for us.

“Bringing those beautiful items out so everyone can see them.”

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, library-museum-and-gallery, community-and-society, history, melbourne-3000, vic

First Nations Australians don’t have to imagine an apocalypse — we survived one

Posted December 08, 2017 07:30:00

There is a shield in the British Museum, taken by Cook on his 1770 landing in the place he named Botany Bay, in what was to become New South Wales.

Called the Gweagal shield, it has a bullet hole near the centre. Oral history held by the Gweagal people says the man who owned that shield was shot.

Carved of wood, it was incapable of withstanding a threat his people had never experienced and almost certainly had never imagined.

It was never my intent to write apocalyptic fiction, to write about dystopias.

It was my intent to write a novel that would explain and contextualise the invasion of Australia in 1788 in such a way that it would help white people understand what the invasion meant for my people. I wanted people to have empathy for my people if they had not before.

But while writing that novel, Terra Nullius, I experienced a revelation that was to blow my mind.

Novels about the history of Australia are post-apocalyptic, because all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people alive today are the descendants of people who survived an apocalypse.

Modern Australia is a dystopia if you look at it from our point of view — it’s only the “lucky country” for everybody else.

While writing my novel I came to the understanding that the only way to tell the story truthfully and with the impact I wanted it to have, was to embrace the post-apocalyptic imagery.

In 1788 boats arrived in Sydney Cove, and started unloading soldiers and prisoners, transportees on this continent, now called Australia. That is when the apocalypse began.

Over nearly 230 years the First Nations Australian people went from controlling the continent to constituting only around 3 per cent of the continent’s population. These were end times, the ending of a civilisation, of a culture, of a people.

More people died than you can imagine — most of the population died, and those of us living now are the descendants of a small number of survivors.

We can only imagine now, the violence, the pain, the suffering of my First Nations people.

Diseases imported from Europe would have been decimating and terrifying. Most of the white people were men and we know rape was commonplace. Many of those who survived the epidemics were massacred, the survivors of the massacres were rounded up, forced into concentration camps, had their culture destroyed and were often enslaved.

There were hundreds of languages spoken on this continent before white people came. Many of those languages and the information encoded in those languages are now lost. Things cannot be explained or remembered if there are no words to talk about them.

As a Noongar woman, my ancestral country is the south coast of Western Australia. I can say with certainty that I am alive only because my ancestors survived.

That is true of all people, everyone only lives because their ancestors survived.

In my case survival was a miracle. There were few survivors, and the attempted genocide of my people was almost successful.

I am a product of the resilience of two women — Binyan, also known as Fanny Winnery, and Harriet Coleman, her daughter.

However, it is not just how many people died, or the low chance of survival that defined the arrival of white people as apocalyptic.

An entire civilisation was destroyed along with our language and a lot of culture. It was destroyed because the people who invaded Australia — and it was an invasion — had no respect for the people who lived here.

White people brought their own culture, their own religion. Seeing ours as completely lacking in value, they used their military might and their control of the resources they stole, to force their culture on us. There are survivors, there is living culture — but so much, so very much, was lost.

In summary: white people stole our land, stole our children, attempted, and nearly succeeded in the complete destruction of our culture.

We, the Indigenous people of this continent, now live in a dystopia.

We are a tiny proportion of the population, only 3 per cent, therefore we do not have the political power to enact change within a democracy. This is one of the reasons why First Nations Australians have a life expectancy decades shorter than white people, often live in third-world conditions, and are on average significantly poorer than the national average.

Indigenous affairs are something done to us, not with us. Our small numbers and a history of hostile government has kept control of our affairs out of our hands.

We don’t have to imagine an apocalypse, we survived one. We don’t have to imagine a dystopia, we live in one — day after day after day.

Topics: indigenous-culture, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, community-and-society, history, books-literature, fiction, arts-and-entertainment, australia

Namatjira painting gifted to Alice Springs dialysis centre to raise funds for nurses’ wages

Updated December 07, 2017 09:30:32

A rare Albert Namatjira painting has been donated to an Alice Springs Aboriginal renal dialysis centre, which hopes to use funds from its sale to ensure more patients can be treated closer to home.

The donation was made by the Ngurratjuta Aboriginal Corporation (NAC) to the Purple House, an Aboriginal-controlled organisation.

“We donated the painting to the Purple House so people like me can get back to country and do what is needed, stay with family and stay on country,” said Douglas Multa, a dialysis patient and board member of NAC.

Hundreds of Aboriginal people from the NT’s desert communities need life-saving renal dialysis treatment several times a week, and many need to travel hundreds of kilometres for treatment, which can be a traumatic experience.

“For me personally, it’s really hard to stay in big towns like Alice Springs, all of us dialysis people need something put out there for us,” Mr Multa said.

Aboriginal people in Central Australia suffer from kidney disease at a rate 15 times higher than the national average.

“Central Australia is really the centre of the universe for kidney failure, there’s well over 350 people in Central Australia who need dialysis,” Purple House chief executive Sarah Brown said.

She said patients usually required haemodialysis which was an arduous treatment received in three five-hour sessions per week.

‘Better than sister work’ at national gallery: Sotheby’s

In May, the NT Government agreed to build remote dialysis centres in Docker River, Papunya, and Mt Liebig, but the Purple House still needs to come up with the operating costs.

“I got a phone call saying, ‘Hey Sarah, Ngurratjuta board has met, we’d like you to come to the Araluen Arts Centre and choose an Albert Namatjira painting’,” Ms Brown said.

“And I thought, ‘I’m never going to have a phone call like that ever again’.”

The work, titled Mount Hermannsburg, last changed hands in 1989 for $15,000.

“The painting is a very rare depiction of Mount Hermannsburg, all the most valuable examples [of Namatjira’s work] sold in the past have featured Mount Hermannsburg,” senior consultant at Sotheby’s Art London Tim Klingender said.

“This work is in impeccable condition. The provenance is immaculate and it’s unusually large.”

The money raised from the sale of the artwork will help pay for nurses’ wages.

“In my opinion it’s better than the sister example in the National Gallery of Australia, it should be worth approximately $90,000,” Mr Klingender said.

‘Love for the old sick people’ behind donation

The painting was being held in trust for the public at Araluen Arts Centre in Alice Springs, and Mr Multa said the decision to give it away was not easy.

“It was hard. But in our hearts, we had love for the old sick people that are struggling to find money, that’s why we donated the painting,” he said.

Ms Brown said she had promised her patients she would get them all back to their home communities by Christmas, and then will keep Purple House’s doors open.

“In a world where there are not many good news stories about Aboriginal health or Aboriginal communities this is a stunning example of community leaders really trying to make their lives and communities better,” she said.

Topics: visual-art, painting, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, community-and-society, health, alice-springs-0870, nt

First posted December 07, 2017 09:26:13

‘French Elvis’ Johnny Hallyday dies at 74

Updated December 06, 2017 18:17:10

Johnny Hallyday, France’s biggest rock star for more than half a century and an icon who packed sports stadiums and all but lit up the Eiffel Tower with his pumping pelvis and high-voltage tunes, has died. He was 74.

Key points:

  • Johnny Hallyday was France’s biggest rock star for more than half a century
  • President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to the 74-year-old performer
  • Hallyday was treated for lung cancer and health problems in recent years

President Emmanuel Macron announced his death in a statement on Wednesday, saying: “He brought a part of America into our national pantheon.”

Mr Macron’s office said the President spoke with Hallyday’s family but did not provide details about where the rocker died or the circumstances.

Hallyday had lung cancer and repeated health scares in recent years that dominated national news, yet he continued performing as recently as a few months ago.

Hallyday fashioned his glitzy stage aura from Elvis Presley, drew musical inspiration from Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly, performed with Jimi Hendrix, and made an album in country music’s capital, Nashville.

His stardom largely ended at the French-speaking world, yet in France itself, he was an institution, with a postage stamp in his honour.

“I’m not a star. I’m just a simple man,” he said in a 2006 interview on France 3.

He was the country’s top rock ‘n’ roll star through more than five decades and eight presidents. Mr Macron said, “The whole country is in mourning”.

“We all have something of Johnny Hallyday in us,” the President said, praising, “a sincerity and authenticity that kept alive the flame that he ignited in the public’s heart”.

Celine Dion was among stars sharing condolences for a rocker with a famously gravelly voice who sold more than 100 million records, filled concert halls and split his time between Los Angeles and Paris.

The antithesis of a French hero right down to his Elvis-style glitter and un-French name, Hallyday was among the most familiar faces and voices in France, which knew him simply as Johnny, pronounced with a slight French accent and beloved across generations.

He released his last album Rester Vivant — or Staying Alive — last year, and performed this summer as part of the Old Crooks tour with long-time friends and veteran French musicians Eddy Mitchell and Jacques Dutronc.

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy, as mayor of the rich enclave of Neuilly-sur-Seine on the western edge of Paris, presided in 1996 over the entertainer’s marriage to his fourth wife, Laeticia.

“For each of us, he means something personal. Memories, happy moments, songs and music,” Mr Sarkozy said in 2009, days after Hallyday, then 66, was hospitalised in Los Angeles.

Mr Sarkozy called the Hallyday family during an EU summit and gave updates on the singer’s condition during news conferences.

The health problems came amid a national tour that included a Bastille Day mega-concert on July 14 at the Eiffel Tower with spectacular fireworks.

Hallyday sang some songs in English, including Hot Legs and House of the Rising Sun, the melody of which was also used for one of his most famous songs, the 1964 Le Penitencier.

One of France’s biggest stars since the 1960s

And there was a real American connection: American singer Lee Ketchman gave him his first electric guitar. Hallyday’s stardom, however, was not inevitable.

He was born in Paris on June 15, 1943, during the dark days of World War II with a less glamorous name, Jean-Philippe Smet.

Hallyday gave his first professional concert in 1960, under the name Johnny, and put out his first album a year later.

By 1962, he had met the woman who would be his wife for years, and remained his friend to the end, singing star Sylvie Vartan. That year, he also made an album in Nashville and rubbed shoulders with American singing greats.

He quickly became a favourite of young people during the Ye-ye period — the golden years of French pop music.

A respected musician, Hallyday played with Jimi Hendrix during the 1960s and once recorded a song with Led Zeppelin founder Jimmy Page.

With his square-jawed good looks and piercing blue eyes, Hallyday was often sought-out for the cinema, playing in French director Jean-Luc Godard’s 1984 film Detective and with other illustrious directors including Costa-Gavras.

However, it was the rocker’s personal life, and his marriage to Laeticia, that gave him a mellow edge. He spoke lovingly of daughters Jade and Joy, who were adopted from Vietnam.

Hallyday was also survived by two other children, Dave, a singer fathered with Vartan, and Laura Smet, whom he had with noted French actress Nathalie Baye.

Memorial plans have not been announced.


Topics: rock, music, arts-and-entertainment, community-and-society, human-interest, france

First posted December 06, 2017 18:10:00