APY Lands artists use ancient techniques to create new rock art

Posted October 15, 2017 09:43:57

A group of Indigenous artists from the remote APY Lands in the far north of South Australia have been using ancient techniques to create brand new work.

They are using ochre to paint stories on rocks, then taking photos of it which they can sell.

It is a marked difference from artworks painted on canvas in art centres, for which the APY Lands have become internationally renowned.

It allows artists to get out onto their country, teach the next generations their stories, and make money from the process.

One artist, Keith Stevens, has painted a story of two sisters spearing a rainbow serpent at a waterhole.

He and senior elder Ginger Wikilyiri took the ABC to the waterhole near their community of Nyapari, after checking first that it was OK with the spirit by shouting out to it.

“My father told me this story, that this was the place of the Rainbow Serpent Piltatinya,” he said in Pitjantjatjara.

It involves two women who end up spearing a rainbow serpent.

Mr Stevens painted the story using ochre straight onto the rock of the waterhole.

But while the painting has now been washed away, he can still sell stunning images of it.

The art centre at Nyapari, Tjungu Palya has teamed up with a professional photographer to take photos of the temporary paintings.

They have produced limited prints which have already almost sold out.

“Pictures are good because everybody might be sharing that picture,” Mr Stevens said.

“White people, women, children, sharing picture make everybody happy.

“Everything here is good, the dreaming story is good.”

Topics: aboriginal, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, community-and-society, visual-art, nt

Generous teacher makes Aladdin wish come true for remote students

Updated October 14, 2017 01:13:50

A group of Indigenous students from a remote part of the Northern Territory has had a close encounter with the bright lights of Melbourne’s theatre scene, and it is due to the generosity of their teacher, and her friends.

Sue Davidson paid over $3,500 out of her own pocket to take her students to a performance of the Disney musical, Aladdin, before using crowd funding to recover most of the costs.

“It was a bit of a risk, pushing that button was a bit nerve-wracking because it was going to be the most expensive night out in Melbourne that I would have ever been to, but anyway, it came good. I had a feeling that I would get support,” she told AM.

My friends, bless them all, and people I didn’t even know heard about it, and it went a little bit viral and we got the money for it, and so here we are.”

Ms Davidson teaches the year 7, 8 and 9 students in the community of Ampilatwatja, which is halfway between Alice Springs and Mt Isa in Queensland.

Each year students who have shown a good behaviour and attendance record go on a trip to visit other schools in Victoria, but this is the first time a theatre performance has been included in the program.

“[It is] giving them a sample of life and a taste of what’s going on out there, because they really live in a very secluded world,” Ms Davidson said.

“Just to even experience the fact that there’s this world where they might be able to become actors themselves or get involved with the music or the production, or the art side of it, they’re very good artists, a lot of them, and they’re very capable, they just lack confidence.”

When the producers of the show heard the students would be attending they invited them backstage to meet the cast and crew, pose for photographs and learn more about the production.

One of the show’s stars, American actor Michael James Scott, who plays the Genie, asked for his own photo with the group.

Ms Davidson said they will continue to study the story of Aladdin, once they return to Ampilatwatja.

“The basic theme of the whole show is about being trapped in the world that you’re trapped in; Aladdin is trapped in poverty, the Genie is trapped in the lamp, the Princess is trapped in the fact that she has to marry a prince and not for love, and the Sultan’s trapped in the fact that he has to make his daughter unhappy.

“So I just thought that I might be able to expand that and use that for the children to start thinking about the world that they live in as Indigenous students in the remote NT, and the world they could be trapped in,” she said.

But there is a sting to the happy tale.

Ms Davidson, and her generous friends, had to pay so much for the tickets because she unknowingly bought them through the reseller Viagogo, which is being taken to court by the consumer affairs watchdog.

“When I actually printed them [the tickets] off and realised they were less than half the price of what I paid, I realised that I had been scammed and I’d asked my friends to support that unwittingly, and that makes me very upset.”

Topics: indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, community-and-society, opera-and-musical-theatre, arts-and-entertainment, education, melbourne-3000, vic, nt, australia

First posted October 14, 2017 01:10:32

Captain Cook’s Hawaiian cape on display after 120 years in storage

Posted October 13, 2017 13:13:48

A famed feather cape gifted by a Hawaiian chief to Captain Cook on his fateful final voyage has been put on display at Sydney’s Australian Museum after more than a century in storage.

The cape — or ‘ahu’ula — was given to Cook in 1778 or 1779 and has been part of the museum’s collection since 1894.

It was supposed to provide physical and spiritual protection to those who donned it, however, that did not prove true for the explorer, who was killed by Hawaiians in February 1779.

And it has now been unveiled as part of the museum’s 200 Treasures exhibition.

Other artefacts on display include the body of a Tasmanian tiger, a prehistoric Irish elk skeleton and a 10 kilogram gold nugget discovered during the Gold Rush.

Despite being part of the museum’s collection for more than a century, Cook’s cape has seldom been seen by visitors, apart from during a brief appearance in 2015.

However it now has a permanent home.

The heritage-listed gallery itself is also being hailed as a unique treasure.

After almost two years of restoration, conservation, and design at a cost of $9 million, the Long Gallery at the Australian Museum will finally reopen to the public.

Exhibition Designer Aaron Maestri said reviving the gallery, built between 1846 and 1855, was full of challenges.

“There are so many things that are a little bit out, or a lot out, or things that I would just like to replace but you can’t because they are heritage,” Mr Maestri said.

“Being sensitive to heritage requirements is really important and worthwhile but can also be a big difficulty.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the exhibition would be an excellent addition to NSW’s arts and culture facilities.

“The Australian Museum, the first museum in the nation, has an unrivalled collection … I commend everyone involved in bringing such a remarkable gallery and exhibition to the people of Australia,” she said.

The gallery will house the 200 Treasures exhibition which shows off some of the fossils, scientific specimens and Indigenous artefacts amassed by the nation’s oldest natural history museum.

It also recognises 100 people who have helped shape the nation through contributions to history, science, nature or culture.

Topics: library-museum-and-gallery, history, art-history, community-and-society, arts-and-entertainment, sydney-2000

Can we replace Red Symons with a robot?

Updated October 03, 2017 09:22:45

It has been called the “robot revolution” — algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) are automating work traditionally done by humans.

But how far has technology come? Can robots replace, for example, a radio host?

Specifically, could one replace ABC Radio Melbourne breakfast presenter Red Symons?

We decided to find out, and set about making a robot radio voice we affectionately named Redbot.

The laws of Redbot

Before we could build Redbot we had to set some ground rules.

All the components had to be available “off-the-shelf” — we couldn’t code a bespoke Red Symons robot, although we did put in a few trademark Red Symons phrases just in case they were needed.

Secondly, we wouldn’t be thrusting the robot straight into the presenter’s chair.

Future radio presenters often get their start after being identified as “good talent”, i.e. they perform well when interviewed.

If our robot wasn’t good talent, then there wasn’t much hope for it as a breakfast radio presenter.

I, Redbot

How Redbot works:

  • Speech-to-text software converts spoken questions to text, so the chatbot can understand them
  • Chatbot software Mitsuku uses artificial intelligence to formulate appropriate responses
  • Voice synthesiser Lyrebird converts the responses to audio, using recordings of Red’s voice

We constructed Redbot using three pieces of freely-available software.

A free online speech-to-text translator captured the interviewer’s questions and turned them into plain text that the chatbot would understand.

We spent a bit of time deciding which chatbot to use.

The first option we explored was Microsoft’s Zo, which the corporation released about a year after its AI predecessor Tay was pulled offline for spouting racist rhetoric.

However, in testing we found Zo had a predilection for answering questions with GIFs, which was not so great for radio.

We settled on Mitsuku, three-time winner of the international Loebner Awards, which judge chatbots according to how human they seem.

Finally, we had to give Redbot a voice, so we turned to software called Lyrebird, developed by a start-up in Montreal. Lyrebird analyses the recorded speech of an individual to produce a synthesised version of that person’s voice.

Redbot was not an entirely fair test of Lyrebird’s capabilities — we fed the system with the bare minimum required to produce an approximation of Red’s dulcet tones.

So how did it go?

Not so well. Take a listen:

Redbot was not exactly expansive in conversation, and required detailed questions to produce useful answers.

Its responses to Red’s more casual questions such as “Do you know Siri?” and “How about the footy?” lacked the human touch.

Red’s summation of the robot’s performance was that it was fine, as long as it was “reading from the brochure”.

What did we learn?

We won’t be replacing Red with a robot any time soon.

Digital personal assistants such as Alexa, Siri and Cortana may be able to provide the basics of news, weather and traffic, but humans are still better at providing informative and entertaining conversations to start your day.

Your Jobs Our Future

According to Tim Baldwin, a professor at University of Melbourne’s Computing and Information Systems department, chatbots are only useful for replacing jobs where the interaction is largely scripted.

“The next step beyond that … is a big step,” he said.

Mitsuku may have won the Loebner Prize three times, but Dr Baldwin said that contest is a “very particular setup”, with competitors learning “how to create the illusion of intelligence when there’s really not a lot there”.

“The chatbots are coded to express things in a way that they’re open to interpretation,” he said.

“That way, the judges can interpret more intelligence behind the statement than what was really there.”

While robots may replace workers doing back-office technical tasks, people in service roles are generally safe for now.

“It’s all of those human-facing jobs where people see through the technology very quickly.”

As technology disrupts many traditional industries and causes unprecedented workplace change, the ABC is exploring the future of work. Visit ABC News Digital, tune into ABC Radio Melbourne and watch ABC News Victoria on October 1–3.

Topics: robots-and-artificial-intelligence, work, radio-broadcasting, information-and-communication, broadcasting, radio, community-and-society, melbourne-3000, vic

First posted October 03, 2017 09:21:29

Macklemore declares ‘equality for all’ at NRL grand final

Updated October 01, 2017 20:03:22

US rapper Macklemore has ended his controversial performance of pro-same-sex marriage song Same Love at the NRL grand final by saying “equality for all” as rainbow-coloured fireworks exploded behind him.

After a week of controversy over his decision to perform the song, he performed a medley of his greatest hits.

About 15 minutes into his set, after performing Can’t Hold Us, Thrift Shop and Downtown, the US artist performed the controversial song to a crowd of cheering fans.

The lyrics of Same Love remained unaltered, and some in the crowd held their hands in the sky in the shape of a heart.

The track, which was written with Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert, hit number one on iTunes in Australia this week after former prime minister Tony Abbott argued “footy fans shouldn’t be subjected to a politicised grand final”.

The furore preceding the performance came amid millions of Australians having their say on marriage laws in the country, with vigorous campaigning from both sides of the debate.

After Macklemore left the stage, the monitors inside the stadium showed the words “equality” and “inclusiveness”.

But for viewers at home the performance was followed by a new ad for the No campaign.

Many people took to social media afterward to support the star’s performance.

In recent days Mr Abbott, and MP Bob Katter were among the conservative politicians who were up in arms over the show.

Neither Mr Abbott nor Mr Katter have yet commented on social media about the performance.

Yesterday, Macklemore pledged to donate the Australian earnings of the hit single to the Yes campaign.

When the song, written during the US same-sex marriage debate, hit number one on iTunes in Australia on Thursday night, the singer said it was a sign “love is winning”.

The single has remained in the top spot for more than 72 hours.

Soon after its release in 2013, Same Love hit the top 40 in the United States, becoming one of the first pro-same-sex-marriage songs to make it into the charts.

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, music, gays-and-lesbians, community-and-society, government-and-politics, australia, sydney-2000

First posted October 01, 2017 19:33:57

This is what was happening in the world last time Richmond won a premiership

Updated October 01, 2017 11:47:23

The last time the Richmond Tigers won a premiership was 37 years ago on September 27, 1980.

Let’s take a look back at what was happening in the world as they celebrated their win against Collingwood.

The number one song was Upside Down by Diana Ross

Yep. In September 1980 we were upside down, turning round and giving love instinctively.

The hit song was number one on the Billboard charts at the time and had been since September 6.

It was later knocked off the top spot by Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust in early October.

The radio was also playing:

  • Rock With You by Michael Jackson
  • Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen
  • Another Brick In The Wall by Pink Floyd
  • Call Me by Blondie
  • Funkytown by Lipps, Inc
  • Magic by Olivia Newton-John

Luke had just found out Vader was his father

It seems like a long time ago — in a galaxy far, far away — but it was in May 1980 that Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back premiered in cinemas.

It was a smash hit (obviously) and earned more than $500 million in box office sales worldwide.

And everyone was also talking about:

  • The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall
  • Fame, starring Irene Cara, Paul McCrane and Laura Dean
  • Xanadu, starring Olivia Newton-John
  • Caddyshack, starring Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray

Malcolm was Prime Minister

No, not Malcolm Turnbull, Malcolm FRASER.

Mr Fraser had been the prime minister since replacing Gough Whitlam after his dismissal in 1975.

In September of 1980 he was gearing up for the federal election against Labor’s Bill Hayden.

Spoiler alert: Mr Fraser won that election and governed until 1983 when he was defeated by Bob Hawke.

Baby Azaria had been missing for a month

Nine-week-old Azaria Chamberlain disappeared from her family’s tent at a campsite at Uluru (Ayers Rock) on August 17, 1980.

Lindy and Michael Chamberlain claimed a dingo had taken her, and a week later the jumpsuit she had been wearing was found nearby.

Two years later, Lindy was wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

PAC-MAN was everyone’s favourite game

Wakka, wakka, wakka!

It was in May 1980 that Namco released the first PAC-MAN game in Japan, introducing us all to those pesky ghosts Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde.

The game hit the US later in October and sold more than 100,000 units in its first year.

John Lennon died just over two months later

John Lennon was shot and killed outside his apartment in New York on December 8, 1980, just over two months after the AFL grand final.

His killer was Beatles fan Mark Chapman, who had asked him for an autograph only hours beforehand.

Two days after the AFL grand final, Lennon did an interview with Newsweek in which he talked about losing ties with Paul McCartney, his relationship with Yoko Ono and falling in love with music again.

Topics: sport, australian-football-league, arts-and-entertainment, community-and-society, history, australia, richmond-3121, vic

First posted October 01, 2017 11:43:11

Macklemore pledges to donate Same Love earnings to Yes campaign

Posted September 30, 2017 20:46:37

US rapper Macklemore — who has become embroiled in Australia’s same-sex marriage debate over his decision to perform his hit Same Love at the NRL grand final — has pledged to donate the Australian earnings of the hit single to the Yes campaign.

The track, which was written with Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert, hit number one on iTunes in Australia this week after former prime minister Tony Abbott argued “footy fans shouldn’t be subjected to a politicised grand final”.

Speaking to Channel Nine ahead of tomorrow’s match, Macklemore said he would help fund the Yes campaign.

“I haven’t figured it out yet, but I was saying … that I want to donate my portion of the proceeds from Same Love that I get off that record here in Australia to voting yes,” he said.

“So I need to figure out what that looks like and how to do that. But it is something I am going to do.”

Alex Greenwich, co-chair of Australian Marriage Equality, took to Twitter to praise to thank the rapper.

“Thank you Macklemore — your song and support continues to inspire and energise us,” he said.

Macklemore told Channel Nine music could influence social change.

“I think that that is what music has the power to do — it’s not to divide people, but create an environment where people can start a debate, can have a conversation and bring a message to the forefront,” he said.

When the song, written during the US same-sex marriage debate, hit number one on iTunes in Australia on Thursday night, the singer said it was a sign “love is winning”.

The single has remained in the top spot for more than 72 hours.

Soon after its release in 2013, Same Love hit the top 40 in the United States, becoming one of the first pro-same-sex-marriage songs to make it into the charts.

It was also embraced by advocates for same-sex marriage around the world, particularly in the US where same-sex marriage was being considered by several states and the Supreme Court.

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, music, gays-and-lesbians, community-and-society, government-and-politics