Sunday, 18 September 2011

Sunday scribblings "Easy"

G'Day,
The sunday Scribblings prompt this week is "Easy".
As always with my posts I write about something that has happened to me and made me think. Well anyway.
Last night I went to a theater production , a play named after and about a man called Albert Namatjira.
So who was this man, have you ever heard of him , google him in images and have a look at his paintings.
This man was not one who had it easy.
Albert Namatjira was an Arrente tribal man, also known as Aranda from the central desert area.
Albert Namatjira was the first famous aboriginal artist. He was the first aboriginal person in the days when australian native people were considered mere flora and fauna and not human, to be made a citizen of Australia.
When I was a child I lived in Darwin and remember seeing his paintings and trying to copy them in my drawings. I was 8 and 9 years old then. We often drove out into the bush around Darwin in the old Holden my Mum owned in those days, a tough old sedan that was capable of tackling almost any terrain, today's new cars can not do that unless they have 4 wheel drive transmissions.
On those drives I fell in love with the bush and the flora and fauna around me. I marveled in the lush tall grasses on the plains and the beautiful ghost gums standing sentinel over the land, the red, red rock formations and the red soil and big ant hills derived from those rocks. Color, color and more color, set below a bright blue sky. We chased wild buffaloes in that old car and paddled in creeks that held hiding crocodiles. Of course there were not as many crocodiles up there as there are nowadays because in those days they were not protected and their numbers had decreased due to hunting. We saw birds and fish and brolgas and magpie geese. I particularly remember the big goannas, all sorts of animals that the Northern Territory is famous for. Wonderful stuff.
Albert Saw those colors and painted them. He put them down on paper to show the world the beauty of his world.
Albert was born in harsh times. Times of drought, and famine , due to the farming of his traditional lands in part, and his parents found their way to the Lutheran mission at Hermansberg where he was given an anglicized name and received food and education, and survived....... where many indigenous children in those harsh times did not. In this survival he also lost some of his rich aboriginal culture. He married and had 10 children two of whom did not survive.
His eldest was a daughter named Maisie, she married a man called Benjamin Landara, I have one of his paintings, along the same style as Albert's work.
After the 1st world war a man called Rex Battersby made his way north on a painting expedition and they built a special friend ship. It was Rex who taught Albert to paint the western way. Rex took some of Albert's paintings with him back south, with his own work, and they sold. Albert did more, became famous, prices went up and he became a rich man. So... the government decided that as Albert was not a citizen of his own country and they therefore could not tax him on his earnings, that they would make him a citizen.
So Albert became a citizen of Australia. He traveled south to Sydney and Melbourne to exhibit his work and meet his fans. There he was treated like a stone age exhibit to oggle over by the hoi paloi of society at the time. He even met and shook the hand of a very young Queen Elizabeth who was a fan of his work. He became very disillusioned by the world down south and succumbed to depression.
In his world in Northern Australia things were very different for him. He was a good stockman, a camelier and a husband, father, uncle, christian, tribesman. Down south he was a rare exhibit himself, in his own country.
Aboriginal culture is quite different in terms of ownership of money, goods etc to what our western culture is. They share everything, and family demands upon Albert's skills and money did not help his depression at all. When asked for money he gave it freely to friends and family and was eventually left with nothing. He taught his painting skills to his family and friends.
In those days it was illegal for aboriginal people to have alcohol so when Albert gave anyone money and they spent it to get drink, as he was a citizen and they were not he was held responsible. One night a fight broke out between a man and woman who had been given money by him which they used to buy alcohol and the woman was killed. Albert was sent to prison for 6 months as a result.
Albert in his later years fell victim to the white mans diet available at the time and died as a result of diabetes and heart problems in 1959. The year I was born.
The play I saw last night was funny, sad, thought provoking. Along the back of the stage were an older woman and man, working on a large painting of the desert area in the style of Albert's work. The work was in white chalk on a black back ground. Great stuff.
They were 2 of Albert's grand children and they assisted with the information presented during this autobiographical play. Pretty special. The two main actors were very good, talented actors, singers and dancers.
But.........
Made me think about , the similarities of today, and when Albert was here.
Made me think of the similarities of Albert being treated as a live stone age exhibit. How different were we watching them last night?
So easy, not easy.
That's all. Goodnight.
Love Linda.

7 comments:

jaerose said...

Hi Linda..some things remain eternal..perhaps..you describe the world around you so beautifully..Jae

scape said...

it's not easy. but thank you for sharing his life/your memories. now i will go search out his art.
p.s. wonderful photo heading your site.

oldegg said...

Great tribute to Albert Namatjira. He was the forerunner for the emergence of aboriginal art even though his was essentially European in style. Sadly aboriginal artists are still being exploited and even copied for commercial gain.

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