Monday, November 28, 2011
Painting done near the river in Cape York where Edmund Kennedy lost his life during his ill-fated expedition to Cape York 1848. Some of his papers were recovered and the botanist (William CARRON (1821-1876) wrote an account of their journey, which can be found here.
"He is a fine fellow, he will either accomplish his object, or leave his bones in the bush!"
- Comment made of Edmund Kennedy before he left for his 1848 Cape York expedition.
A week and one day ago I made one of my increasing infrequent visits to some of the bloggers I enjoy following. I dropped in to see what Natalie d'Arbeloff may have been up to. She had just started a small movement to inspire her (and others) to begin and finish an art work in 7 days and then share the results.
On the spur of the moment I joined up. After all a manifesto needs supporters and it sounded like a good idea.
But the reality is I hardly seem to find the time to develop and run the programs I do at sea. How was I really to start and finish an art work in 7 days?
So did I do it? Well- yes and no. The water colours above are actually pieces I have worked on up in Cape York and they represent the few moments at sea that I found time to put brush top paper. But I did finish the second one and place both of them onto the wall of my semi-empty studio space in the garden. As talismans of a process that I am determined to return to.
So my art work of the past week was me, padding across my weedy lawn, stopping to rip up more of the lawn and sprinkle fertiliser on basil seeds, finish planting strawberries and lettuce and placing these two pictures up on a wall.
And looking at them.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
It seems fitting that our final day for the 2011 Hope Vale/Pelican project was held on the Endeavour River. The Guugu Yimithirr name for the river, now named by Cook (apparently the only Australian river named by Cook along the Australian coastline) is Whalumball birri - Whalumbaal meaning "you will be missed" or "you will be missing".
It was decided to have a river cruise for people in Hope Vale Aged Care. Starke is a difficult boarding point for most of our older passengers, so we returned to the river for boarding from Cooks Landing, after a few days grace to sail Pelican back to Cooktown. Our inaugural sail with the Hope Vale community was from the same wharf on the 5th Aug 2004 (the link refers to the Captain's Log-just scroll down to the date).
Ella Woibo and Maude Rosendale
Just before midnight on 10 June 1770, James Cook's boat Endeavour hit the Great Barrier Reef. The impact tore a huge hole in her side and it was only through fast, united action by her crew and the lucky bit of coral that broke off in the hole, that the ship was able to limp into the Endeavour River. She was carreened on the bank and repaired, near the contempory township of Cooktown for 48 days.
It was during this time that the Guugu Yimithirr language became the first Aboriginal language that was recorded by strangers. Those words are written down in Banks journal, which you can read for free on the Project Gutenberg Australia website. Cook and Sydney Parkinson also recorded Guugu words.
Daisy Hamlot, Violet Cobus, Leslie Reid and Dorothy Rosendale
Sydney Parkinson's unfinished drawing of a Kangaru
It was also the first time that a kangaroo was sighted, named by the Guugu Yimithirr people and drawn by the visitors to this great Southern continent. The pictures can be seen at the James Cook museum, which is well worth a visit if you ever get to Cooktown. Another first was that Sydney Parkinson painted the first known landscape painting in Australia, here in Cape York.
The time that Cook and his men spent here was one of relatively peaceful though minimal contact with the Guugu Yimithirr people, who kept their distance and kept their women at an even greater remove. Cook had advised his men not to make the first move. The Europeans tried to trade for objects like spears etc but found that the local people had relatively little interest in their objects. In fact, soon before leaving they discovered a discarded pile of the objects they did manage to trade. It was when they decided to trade fish that they exited more interest.
Conflict did occur however, when Cook's men caught 12 turtles to help feed them over the next period at sea and did not understand the necessity of gifting at least one of their catch to the people whose country they were visiting.
When Cook left the Endeavour river he sailed a bit further North and stopped at Possession Island where he hoisted the union jack and declared the coast British Territory. He lalso named Cape York after His late Royal highness, the Duke of York.
It would be 100 years before the Guugu Yimithirr would feel the meaning of this act of dispossesion. On the 5th of August, 1872, the last of the old-fashioned Australian gold fevers struck, with the discovery of gold in the Palmer River.
In a very short and for the Guugu Yimithirr, horrendous period, these people were totally dispossesed of their country, rights, respect and only too often, life.
Over the last 8 years of working with the Hope Vale community, we have been fortunate to work with and get to know many Guugu Yimithirr people. In that process we have become much more attuned to these relatively recent events in the history of Aboriginal people. It was not until I spent time in Cooktown, that I learnt of the relativley benign story of this first contact. The general respect and interst in another's culture was, tragically, not to become the story line of colonial Australia.
On our journey up the river, Tom told me about his role in building the Queensland railways, describing the incredibly tough conditions that working in those times entailed. As he said there was no machinery to help you in those days, only the sheer muscle power of the men.
I heard from one of the project Elders the next day, that Aged Care all requested the same trip for the following weekends. They also wanted us to come back and teach more origami. We are planning to run similar cruises next year.
Mt Saunders in the background.
Esmai and Clarence looking at pics from the 2010 HopeVale/ Pelican project. Book created by Vanessa Gillen.
Monday, October 10, 2011
The planned turtle tagging expedition of the day was curtailed due to the conditions. Working on country means that the country - sea or land - dictate the tenor of every day. Today the wind was whipping up 25 to 30 knots, blowing in an East-South-East direction. Luckily we had thought of alternatives. It meant that a few of the hardy, older kids were still going to go out and tag with the turtle team from the smaller boats while everyone else was going to do a walk around the catchment to learn about the local coastline.
Pelican Expeditions had organised to have seagrass scientist Christina Howley come along for the last two days of the program. We are very fortunate to have some occaisional private supporters that allow us to integrate people like Christina into the program without us filling in for onerous grants. This same supporter enabled us to bring the turtle scientists along as well. Christina also brought Jason from the South Cape york Catchment group, who also added to the day with his knowledge of water quality and his enthusiasm for teaching. A common thread of the walk was the love of sharing knowledge by all the participants and everyone's enthusiasm in learning on country.
The photo shows Chris talking about a succulent creeper and just prior to that he pointed out the Blind Your Eye mangrove. Esme (seen below) shared her traditional knowledge of the plant. And in fact shared traditional knowledge about most of the plants that Chris talked about. The kids listened to both stories with equal attention and interest. Esme (in photo below) pointed out the toxitity of the Blind Your Eye (or Mulpil in Guugu Yimithirr) was well known and was as good as its name. The poison is contained in the milky sap of the plant.
Another one to avoid eating is the wonderfully named Gidee gidee or Crab's Eye.