Volume One, Number One, November, 2001
Welcome to Aboriginals: Art of the First Person's very first, inaugural, never-been-published-before edition of TribalArtery. You have been selected to receive this e-mail because you have previously expressed an interest in tribal art. If you wish not to receive this newsletter, you will find unsubscribe instructions at the end of the newsletter. TribalArtery will be a periodic newsletter that will come out as often as we have something to say about tribal arts or some news to report. We expect that it will be every month or so. Of course, we will rely on your comments as we go.
Adventures in Australia
Our recent buying trip to Australia was different than past trips because we agreed to take our 14-year-old grandson, Wills, with us. He wanted to see the land where his father spent some time growing up while we lived in Australia. For us, it was a chance to see the country through Wills’ eyes.
Despite several attempts to get information from Internet travel sites and bulletin boards, we could not find anyone who claimed to actually have made the same trip we planned. We got a lot of helpful comments, however. And many comments like, “She’ll be right, Mate!” from friends and contacts. Unfortunately, one of the things we learned during our previous Australian residence was that "She'll be right," is a philosophical statement more than a reassurance. It doesn't’t necessarily mean that there is nothing to worry about but more likely that what ever could happen isn't worth the worry.
So we were a little uneasy as we picked our camper van in Darwin. Our plan was to drive down the spine of Australia, the Stuart Highway, from Darwin to Adelaide in 12 days, staying in campgrounds along the way. The Stuart is two lanes of black top (“bitumen” in Australian) running 3,026 kilometers through the outback, studded by a few roadhouses and fewer towns along the way.
Before leaving Darwin, we flew by private plane to the nearby islands of Bathurst and Melville, home of the Tiwi people. We had flown there before by commercial airline, so we were familiar with the community and the trip, but flying by private charter was much more flexible and comfortable, allowing us to visit Munupi, Jilamara and Tiwi Designs. Since these are Aboriginal communities it was necessary to obtain a permit from the Aboriginal landowners. We’ll come back to the subject of Tiwi in a future issue of Tribal Artery.
While in Darwin we visited several of our old friends and met some new ones. We were pleased to see Raintree’s Shirley Collins and to meet the wonderful people at Wadeye, the outlet for Port Keats work. It was good also to see Joanne Nangala, who displays her work at the Mindil Beach market every Thursday evening . We selected some beautiful new works by Joanne that will be posted to our Web site shortly. An example will be found at the end of this newsletter.
Darwin to Uluru
From Darwin, we drove south to Katherine, home of the famous Katherine Gorge, where we visited the Katherine Gallery. We should note at this time that Wills, who never had played the didgeridoo, began to experiment with didgs as he searched for the “perfect” instrument to take home with him. By the time we got to Katherine, he had made his choice and become quite accomplished at playing. The advantage of this was that we had our own “didg player” with us to test the musicality of the didgeridoos we considered purchasing. We can evaluate them from the standpoint of artistic appearance. But previously we relied on others for the evaluation of their musical qualities.
From Katherine we continued south toward Alice Springs. We stopped for the night in a modest camp ground with modest amenities. These included a flock of peacocks who responded with fascination to Wills’ didgeridoo serenades. The next morning we headed out, with an interim stop in Tennant Creek. Here, we found the work of Reggie Sultan. We were struck by its grace and inspiration when we saw it. Reggie’s “Seven Sisters” is shown at the end of the newsletter. More examples will be on the Web site soon.
The landscape between Darwin and Alice Springs is rolling and fairly green. The "wet" had been wetter than normal and the countryside was ablaze with wildflowers. We restricted our driving hours to daylight. The frequency of kangaroos and other wild creatures venturing onto the road at night is legendary. We didn't’t want to chance hitting anything while traveling at 120 KPH.
The Dot Painting Center of Australia
Alice Springs is always a highlight of our trip. It is a center for dot painting in the desert. The town, which sits on a riverbed that is more often dry than flowing, is surrounded by aboriginal communities with such famous names as Papunya, Yuendumu and Utopia. These communities can only be reached by long, back-bruising rides over dirt tracks. They can only be visited with special permits.
As a result, much of the art created in the communities finds its way into Alice. This presents a veritable banquet of paintings and artifacts. Since we always cherry-pick the best of what is available, this is the place for us. We acquired several excellent paintings, several well-executed poker-burned animal carvings, boomerangs and, yes, didgeridoos. We also purchased a selection absolutely gorgeous, painted emu eggs. These are hard to obtain because they are so fragile and often break in transit. We are extremely pleased that our eggs made it back to the gallery without a scratch. An example is shown at the end of the newsletter.
It was in Alice Spring that we learned about the events of September 11 in New York. It was as shocking for us as it was for those back in the US. Our eyes welled with tears as we watched TV and prayed for those who had lost family and friends. We struggled to understand what had happened, seeing it from a great distance in a different land. Every Australian we met who heard our accents and realized we were Americans immediately reached out with condolences and comforting embraces.
From Alice Springs, we drove to Ayers Rock, also known as Uluru by the Aboriginal people. This geological phenomenon is a must-see for all who visit Australia. And so it was for Wills. A solid rock that rises out of the desert without warning or surrounding hills, it is five miles around. Uluru is a sacred site for Aborigines. One source described it as representing the pregnant belly of Mother Earth. The traditional owners request that tourists not climb it, but it has been climbed by visitors for years and it is difficult to discourage the practice. Wills, for example, was torn between wanting to climb and wanting to respect Aboriginal wishes. He compromised by ascending just the first 10% of the height and then coming down.
There’s more to tell as we ventured further south, but let's save that for the next issue of Tribal Artery. Oh, by the way, we are currently adding several recently acquired boomerangs to the web site. They will have their own page at our Boomerang Gallery. See the end of the newsletter for an example.
Gifts from the Magi and Loved Ones.
That’s the other news. Our annual show of nativities, What Child Is This?, opened early in November and continues through Christmas. Included are works by the finest Native American potters and some sets from Africa, extending the size and sense of the show to new horizons. An example from Taos Pueblo will be found a the end of the newsletter. You can see some of our other nativities displayed at our Nativity Gallery
Or, if you happen to be on Sanibel on the Friday following Thanksgiving, please visit us at our annual Christmas Walk. This is our way of opening the Holiday Season with wine and festive nibbles for our customers. It runs from 6 PM to 9 PM. Stop and see us.
Also, opening on December 1st, is our show of exquisite Native American jewelry. These pieces make marvelous, beautiful and one-of-a-kind gifts for those you love. We include the work of Carlton Jamon, Calvin Begay, Rolanda Haloo, Ray Tracy, Lynol Yellowhorse and Michael Kirk and his recently deceased brother. One of our favorites, a gold cuff bracelet by Michael Kirk, is pictured at the end of the newsletter. It also is available in silver and silver with a gold stem.
See some examples of these pieces at our Jewelry Gallery. Or stop by and see us on December 7, when we roll out the festive wagon again in conjunction with Sanibel’s annual Luminary Night. For more information about this event, visit
www.sanibel-captiva.org, the island’s Chamber of Commerce web site.
Let us know if you enjoyed this first issue of our newsletter. And pass it along to anyone else you feel might enjoy reading it.
Happy Holidays and may
your God’s peace be with you.