A favourite painting - Mt Sonder looking from the lookout near the Finke River - and no big white gum in the foreground, but a beautiful skeletal mulga amongst spinifex, painted by Elea Namatjirritja, known to whitefellas as Albert Namatjira.
Last night, Doortje and I went to see "Namatjira" by Scott Rankin, at the Frankston Arts Centre. It was fantastic.
The set consisted of a backdrop of a Namatjira scene being filled in by two of Albert's actual grand-daughters, Lenie Namatjira and Ivy Pareroultja. Off to the right, artist Robert Hannaford was painting a portrait of "Albert" played by Trevor Jamieson as he sat posing on a stool. Genevieve Lacy stood or sat to the left and played a variety of recorders to accompany the action and singing.
All the action was provided by Trevor Jamieson and Derik Lynch. The story told the history of Albert and his upbringing on Hermannsburg Mission, of the artist Rex Battarbee from Warrnambool, their coming together, and the eventual downfall of Albert.
This picture shows Trevor Jamieson and the set with his portrait on the right.
A closeup of Trevor Jamieson. He narrated the story and played many of the major characters, the main three being Albert, the German pastor, and Rex Battarbee. He did the ocker accent of Battarbee and the guttural German very well, as well as a deep mellow voice for Namatjira.
Derik Lynch was a great foil for Jamieson. He played several characters, from an army mate of Battarbee to Rubina, Albert's wife, and the young Queen Elizabeth! Both actors engaged the audience very well. They also sang some beautiful duets, mostly of Hermannsburg Arrente hymns.
Scott Rankin's take on the Namatjira story was perspicacious, often poignant and often witty. He had Rex Battarbee, "Resident Protector" at Hermannsburg in 1942 because the Germans had all been removed, do an official radio "sked" -
"Hello, anybody there? This morning the enemy dive-bombed the vegie patch - bloody cockatoos into my cabbages again."
Often, the two actors made asides, addressing each other as Trevor or Derik, which always had the audience laughing.
Even though presented light-heartedly, there were no punches pulled in exposing the white attitude to Aborigines, and the tragedy of the Namatjira story was told in detail. Namatjira became flavour of the month and just as easily discarded. In the meantime he was forced to become a citizen against his will, so that he wouldn't avoid paying tax on his earnings! Still not able to vote, though. Through kinship rules he was obliged, by his citizenship as he had predicted, to supply grog to non-citizen relatives, and then for this he was jailed. He eventually died poor and disillusioned.
I suspect in 2012 that this story is new to most Australians and it should be retold emphatically to every generation. It probably has much more relevance as revelation of our national psyche than the Anzac story.