My Unexpected Recent Visit To Darwin 

May 27, 2021

Me and my girls

 

Two weeks’ ago, out of the blue I received a phone call from my son in Darwin asking if I were available to teenage sit my two granddaughters. Available?? I was ready, excited, and had my bags packed in no time for the flight. 

Travelling into the NT from Queensland still required a permit. Once that was completed, I was met by my son at the airport, contrary to my last clandestine visit, which was a successful birthday surprise. I don’t think I will ever forget the fantastic reaction when I appeared unexpectedly on the doorstep. Now again it was a wonderful reunion with many hugs and my boundless marvelling at the girls’ growth.

On Mother’s Day we went to beautiful Cullen Bay, an extremely popular spot judging by the number of cars. Thus we were not surprised to witness a most spectacular sunset over Darwin Harbour. People were picnicking near the water, but I was treated to a Greek restaurant which served a delicious array of traditional meze platters. Of course, I had to have Baklava for dessert while the girls indulged in Turkish delight.

Me and my girls

From the next day I was in charge, driving the girls to and from school, to netball, and the after-school learning program Kumin. A concept originally as unfamiliar to me as driving my daughter-in-law’s big four-wheel drive called Beast, when I am used to my little Smart, called Sweetie. I am, however, proud to say that I managed to get the hang of both in no time.

One day I ventured into town and visited the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. I was immediately enthralled by the Centralian Senior College student Muhammad Hassan’s Chicken 2020, the winner of the Art Educators of the Northern Territory Award in the Visual Art – Art – Practical category.

Chicken 2020

Hassan’s striking installation consists of synthetic polymer and aerosol paint on wire mesh and fly screen, metal tube and newspaper. I could easily visualise this Chicken in my abode that is decorated predominantly in white and black intermingled with red and other hues.  

My expectation to find a painting by Albert Namatjira was satisfied. His painting Mt Hermannsburg 1944 is a watercolour on bean wood. I immersed myself in that landscape, it exudes a beauty so different to those of Europe and I decided to visit the Red Centre in the not-too-distant future. 

Mt Hermannsburg 1944

Albert Namatjira was introduced to watercolour painting at Hermannsburg, which is depicted in this painting with the James Range in the distance. During the 1940s several prominent artists visited Central Australia, including the outstanding exponent of modernism, Max Dupain, who was sent to the NT to photograph local life and the landscape. His silver gelatin photographs take their space between Grace Cossington Smith and Sidney Nolan.

I was struck by Charlie Numbulmoore’s Wandjina 1970, earth pigments on compressed fibreboard.

Wandjina 1970

Numbulmoore’s Wandjina figures remain relatively enigmatic, given little information was recorded at the time of their implementation. Often capturing the Wandjina’s head and upper torso, these startling figures are distinguished by their deep piercing eyes surrounded by graceful lashes. The solid black oval form on the chest of the Wandjina is said to depict the sternum/heart or a pearl shell pendant.

Apart from an array of fabulous indigenous art and handy works, there is a dedicated space to Cyclone Tracy, an intriguing Maritime Gallery, a photo-documented history of the Northern Territory, display cases of local shells, birds, fauna, and the taxidermied Sweetheart, a large five metre estuarine crocodile weighing 780 kg. 

Sweetheart, Crocodylus porosus

Sweetheart gained notoriety in the 1970s by attacking aluminium dinghies at a popular Darwin fishing spot. On at least two occasions the boat occupants were tipped into the water, fortunately, no one was hurt. 

After immersing myself in so many interesting creative objects, I ventured to the Café and ordered coffee and a small piece of cake, withstanding the temptation to have a double size Apple Danish – everything is big in the NT. I found a peaceful spot on the veranda overlooking the bay. The temperature was a tolerable 33 degrees without humidity. I imagined myself to be in a tropical paradise, all I needed was a hammock, a glass of bubbly, and the sound of smooth jazz wafting through the airwaves. 

View from the Café’s veranda

 

Darwin beach

From where I sat the perspective of the view to my right reminded me of Sidney Nolan’s Tennant Creek 1949, an oil on board.

Tennant Creek 1949

I could have easily spent the rest of the day in these enchanting surroundings, but as it was nearing end of school hours, I hastened to fulfil the purpose of my visit.

Netball was next on the agenda. I enjoyed seeing many girls, and some boys, having fun while playing a game in good team spirits. 

Promoting fitness

Another stunning sunset complemented my famous and historically praised spaghetti that day.

Like all good things, my time to return home arrived all too quickly. As I boarded the plane home, I pondered Banjo Patterson’s words:

‘Someday it may be civilised and spoilt, but up to the present it has triumphantly overthrown all who have tried to improve it. It is still the Territory.’