Friday, April 26, 2013

Beach Night Market, and the NT Art Gallery

26 April 2013

NOTE:  All photos are from the internet.  Can't take photos at the museum.  My camera is too slow to take decent photos of fireworks.  So - thank you to everyone who posts photos online for public use!

Last night we went out to Mindil Beach Night Market - it was opening night, since the market only runs from late April to November or so.  It was kind of like Carnival on St. Thomas - Food Fair and the Carnival Village, with the booths of food; a massive crowd of people; and wonderful fireworks over the harbour.  We had a great time!  There was music, including a man playing multiple didgeridoos, the Aboriginal reverberating tree trunk instrument - plus a few Aboriginal older adults "wukkin' up" to the cheering delight of the crowd.  (For my non-USVI friends, "wukkin' up" is dancing front to back, in very close proximity - the kind of dance that chaperones would faint over.)  We both are missing Carnival on St. Thomas, so were very happy to find the market and conjure up some Carnival magic for ourselves!

Today I went out to the Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery.  This museum is famous for "Sweetheart" the HUGE crocodile who was caught near here and who accidentally died while being caught.  Since the croc died of somewhat natural causes (it was unclear whether he/she drowned or had a croc heart attack, even though there was a video), the decision was made to stuff it for the museum.  This really was a monstrous croc, probably a good 4 to 5 meters long.  You get a sense of Sweetheart's size in the photo of his/her set up.

The museum has exhibits on the natural history of Australia and especially the Top End, with rocks and minerals, prehistoric animal skeletons, shells, all that.  Birds, kangaroos and wallabies, moths, butterflies.  Then the inevitable - showcase after showcase of venomous and poisonous and toxic animals, insects, jellyfish, snakes.  Signs saying that Australia and this region in particular are home to more venomous snakes than any other continent in the world.  (This is following the tragic death of a local sportsman who was bitten by a brown snake and died this week.)  Baby crocs, stuffed and on display.  Various snakes.  Whistling spiders.  Box jellyfish.  Scorpions.  Other venomous spiders.  Assassin beetles.  (I never even heard of that one - I probably was better off before I knew they existed!)

That part of the exhibit was kind of scary.  Makes me glad we turned in the car tent and are back in Darwin and in a hotel again - I think I'm not ready to be hiking the Outback and encountering deadly animals, especially snakes and insects!

There were a great many examples of Aboriginal art, some with partial explanations.  I say partial because most of the Aboriginal art, like much African art, is tied to religious beliefs and sacred rituals, some part of secret societies - so the explanations, interpretations, meanings, and reasons for the art objects cannot be shared with the general public, or even with anyone not part of that society.  

Aboriginal art is very interesting, almost fussy in the detail.  Not fussy as in grumpy like a baby.  Fussy as in extremely detailed, requiring infinite patience to create.  There's the traditional dot painting, which is probably the best known.  There's also extremely fine cross hatching, which is believed to represent divine or heavenly radiance, according to the placards at the museum.  Some of the art represents religious beliefs, some tells the story or traditions of that particular tribe, some may be a map - there are as many interpretations as there are viewers.

I also went to the Year 12 student exhibit - again, it was amazing to see the work produced by the students.  I'm very impressed with the art curriculum in the schools in this country.  I also met the regional direction of art education, and we had a nice chat about art education in Australia, and in general.  

But I think my favorite piece in the museum/gallery was the Toyota pickup truck created by a group of women basket weavers, using traditional weaving traditions which were attached to an armature made by a woman sculptor in Perth.  It was funny, tongue-in-cheek, and a unique way of bringing traditional indigenous arts to a modern interpretation.

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