Thursday, 30 August 2012

Yarrabah....The Opera

Yarrabah is a lovely place, sitting beside the sea with stunning mountains surrounding it. The mountains themselves, known as the Walls of Jerusalem, dominate the landscape from Cairns when you look east, but I have discovered that a lot if people from Cairns have never traveled over those mountains. The drive itself to Yarrabah is stunning, fringed with beaches and a glorious view out to the reef as well as back over Cairns. 

Aunty Polly
Yarrabah's history however is not such a happy one, like so many of the FNQ indigenous communities that were 'removed' and segregated to places like Palm Island or Woorabinda.  'Yarrabah - the Opera' produced by Opera Australia and directed by Rhoda Roberts, deals with this history in a stunning but sensitive style that was even more special as it was staged in the Bishop Malcolm Park at Yarrabah itself.
With a simple stage, clever lighting and the use of large screens showing old images from the early days, there would have been a crowd of 500 with lots of people arriving from Cairns, many for the first time. The Park is on the edge of the beach and surrounded by large trees. Local groups set up food stalls and we had our Arts Centre stall, selling quite a bit of art to the 'foreigners'.  It was a stunning night with a large moon, not a wisp of wind and the gentle sound of the sea in the distance.

Mixing stars like Casey Donovan and her glorious voice and other OA singers with the local school kids and some of the 'aunties' made it a really moving experience. Sitting with Aunty Polly and come others, I was intrigued by how real it all was to them. They recalled the real issue of the the forced marriages, they roared with laughter at the exercise regime in the girls dormitory as they remembered it well and were moved to tears by much of the story.

The rule of the church

I suspect the highlight for them however was watching the aunties, their friends, dance and perform on stage. While the local kids ran races and played around the dusty park, the older generation roared with laughter at their friends and began muttering about whether there would be a Yarrabah - Part 2 which they could all be in.
Exercise in the girls dorm

I felt so pleased to be there and share this moment with them all. A fabulous project, beautifully staged in a perfect environment. The drive home late that night with the twinkling lights of Cairns in the distance...I was tired by happy.

The finale

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Ghost nets

I had never heard of a Ghost net before moving to FNQ. They are however an important part of life up here - having both negative and also now positive impacts on local life. If you look up the definition under Ghost Nets Australia, this is what you get.....

Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been abandoned at sea, lost accidentally, or deliberately discarded. They travel the oceans of the world with the currents and tides, continually fishing as they progress through the waters. As they are unattended and roaming they fish indiscriminately, not only catching threatened species but undersized and protected fish as well.

What is GhostNets Australia?

Northern Australia supports an array of marine and coastal species, including six of the worlds seven marine turtle species and four sawfish species, many of whose populations have declined elsewhere. Ghost nets are part of vast rafts of marine debris arriving from south east Asia that are fouling this otherwise pristine coastline, which is mostly owned and occupied by Indigenous peoples of Australia.

GhostNets Australia is an alliance of over 22 indigenous communities from coastal northern Australia across the three states of Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland.  The programme was established in 2004 with funding from the Australian Government. Since its inception, the programme has supported Indigenous Rangers to remove over 7,500 ghost nets of varying sizes.  This has resulted in the recovery of a proportion of the trapped wildlife, particularly marine turtles (52%), and the prevention of the ghost nets from returning to the sea to continue their destructive life-cycle. Less than 10% of these nets have been attributed to Australian fisheries.

This project is also enabling Aboriginal communities to fulfil their aspirations of having stewardship of their customary lands and adjacent marine environment, known as "caring for country."

The positive spin on this is the wonderful work the people of Ghost Nets Australia do in recovering the nets, helping the animals and then turning the nets into wonderful pieces of art.
Set up under a beautiful tree, Ghost Nets Australia were an integral part of the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair 2012 and provided a soothing space to retreat from the madness of wheeling and dealing at the Art Fair. The work they do helping and mentoring people to create a little piece of magic from a ghost net is fabulous but the best part of it is the creations they produce. Absolute works of art and I am in awe of how they produce them!

Here is a taste of some of the pieces.
the king!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Indigenous Art in Cairns

The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (now in its 4 year) was an experience I was lucky enough to enjoy from the 'inside'. Three weeks before it began I found myself agreeing to help the artists from the Yarrabah Arts Centre prepare for and attend the art fair for the very first time. They had been working hard for months and had a large number of paintings, pots and weaving ready for the fair.

We loaded up my new ute and headed into Cairns for a whirlwind introduction to the world of art fair, galleries, collectors and the all important arts bodies and funding people.

Our stand was colourful and the four artists spent most of their time there which was a great bonus. People were so pleased to meet them, hear the story behind the painting and also get a photo of them with the artist when they purchased one. The paintings literally flew out of the door.

On the few moments we were able to take time off the stand, there was so much else to see. The day was filled with various traditional dance groups including the winners of last years Laura Dance Festival, The Lockhart River Dancers. Their lead dancer, Josiah Oomeenyo, is the artist of several paintings we bought in Lockhart River last year so it was great to see him in action. I was even able to give him a photo I took last year at the Laura Dance Festival.
The other amazing dancers were the Taureg dancers from Torres Strait and they were thrilling with their dramatic island warrior style. There just wasnt enough time to see it all - its was fabulous.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Cairns indigenous art fair- what a weekend...

It's been a crazy few days as I found myself managing the yarrabah arts centre and helping the artists with their exhibition! It's been a lot of wheeling and dealing and making contacts.....and learning on the go. It's a thrill and seeing so much great art, music, dancing and glorious weather is just a treat.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Life's a beach......

Dare I say it as friends and family in NSW are freezing, but this place continues to amaze me with its beauty. It has been perfect 26 clear blue days so not too hot and cool nights which means we can enjoy sleeping under sheets and blankets.

View from Yorkeys Knob Boat Club
The last three weekends we have been introduced to some of the favourite local haunts like Kewarra Beach Resort, Yorkeys Knob boat club and Paradise Palms - all great places for an early evening drink and dinner, complete with playgrounds and entertainment for the kids. Its bliss and the sunsets have been amazing.

Double Island from Kewarra Beach

The best so far has to be the Kewarra Beach Resort which we went to last night. Wow! Sitting on a beach watching the sun go down, sand between your toes with a nice glass of champagne and a decent table and chairs, pizzas all round and a disco for the kids. 
Doesnt get much better than that and its only 10 mins from home.