Ode to Ben Quilty


There is so much thanks to bestow upon Australian Archibald prize winner & Official war artist Mr Ben Quilty.

A recent guest on ABC television show, Home Delivery with Julia Zemiro- Ben came across as a great artistic talent, intellect and humanitarian- wearing his heart on his sleeve, sensitivity ozzing from every pore.

My Mum commented post show, in one of our almost dayly phone catch ups that she felt ‘ He looked tired’. She attributed this tiredness to Ben’s friendship with Bali Nine prisoner, Myuran Sukumaran and the suffering he endured whilst campaigning to save his life, grief experienced upon his execution.

According to my Mum, the loss of his mate had ‘Aged him’. I agreed. I felt that Ben had as an artist, more importantly, as human being, had suffered deeply for his art, his beliefs, his values. His genuineness, personable nature & belief in the inherit goodness in other making him susceptible to highest of highs, the lowest of lows.

Ah Mr Quilty there is so much to thank you for. Not only do I say thank you for highlighting the injustices of the prison systems, the redemptive quality of the Arts, shining a light on the suffering endured by military personal, physical & mental, and of the importance for positive role models for young people, especially young men.

But what I want to thank you for is for shining the spotlight on a book I believe every person that calls Australia home should read. The Secret River, by Kate Grenville. Well into my eighth year of employment at the University of Sydney, and this book had sat in abundance in my office since I could remember.

Hundreds & hundreds of copies, the official book gifted to all first year University students. The concept had failed to take off, hence an over supply of the novel, countless copies strewn in every corner of our student resource library. I had often glanced at the book, but it bleak front cover of misty grays and murky whites did not excite me.

But by chance a friend and I attended a literary event in Marrickville in late 2014. Arriving early, or so we thought, we headed to the pub for a quick snack pre show. We arrived back at the venue to be told we had nearly missed the entire event- only one panelist remained- Mr Quilty.

The panel was reciting a letter to a person they wanted to thank. Someone who had challenged their thoughts & ideals, or shaped heir childhood, directing and guiding them. Mr Quilty was thanking Kate Grenville for writing the award winning novel’ The Secret River’ …..my ears pricked up, time stood still..I was finally ready to listen to each & every word about this book-

” Thank you Kate Grenville for writing a version of White Australian history never before documented in a way that induced tears, shame and rage. A true account of white settlement. Thank you for not shying away from the blood shed, brutality, disease inflicted upon the indigenous people & decimation of their culture at the hands of the Imperialist. This is the story that is not accounted for in our school systems- glossed over, as if this land and it people, it’s stories are but 200 years old. Thank you Kate Grenville for giving a voice to our countries dark past, to a culture & a people, with stories & traditions some 40,000 years old”

I left the Marrickville Theatre knowing what I had to do. The next day at work, I scooped up 3 copies of ‘ The Secret River’, blowing dust of the covers as I placed the books into my bag. My secret treasure- I was finally enlightened & ready to delve into this novel.

My holiday reading had been decided- and I devoured the book in two days. It was a hard read, a book my Mum told me, she had not been able to complete due to the graphic description of the fate dealt to this countries first people.

But I share Mr Quitly’s opinion…and wish the University of Sydney’s vision that this book be a MUST read to all undergrads had been successful. The Secret River, provides a version of white settlement that deserves a platform. A big platform, all school syllabus’s a small step in the right direction.

That you Ben Quilty for your insistence I read this book. You are a visionary and agent for change on so many levels. You suffer for your art and I hope my thanks helps to make it just that tiny bit worth it.

Tokyo City

20160504-085200.jpgI have been swept across city streets by the sheer momentum of people power.
Bright city lights have blinded my gaze, stopped me dead in my tracks,transfixed.

Fascinated by plastic window displays, I have been lured into food halls & restaurants.

Tastes, smells, textures foreign to my western palate have delighted- each mouthful savoured.

The natural beauty within the city has welcomed me with open arms when I needed respite.

The lush green parks, clear ponds and the countries ‘celebrity tree’ ,the cherry blossoms restoring my energy levels so as to navigate with ease outside the manicured gardens.

I have been reacquainted with old friends and reminisced over wine & coffee, laughed, cried and created new memories.

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I have toured to new places, via train, monorails, and on foot, meeting new people and many cats along the way.

Tokyo, you have exhausted and overwhelmed, amazed and inspired me.
The frenetic pace to which you operate has me puzzled- that I could survive you is something I am grappling with.

Each time I craved solitude you just up’ed the volume, increased the numbers.
You constantly surprised me and for that I am thankful.

I came unprepared, unaware & with no expectations.
I leave with a head full of possibilities and grand ideas about our next encounter.

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Let’s go CraZy

On the 11th of January I went to JB High Fi and brought a much longed for Prince cd. Later that afternoon, as news circulated the globe that icon David Bowie had died, I felt a compulsion to return my princely treasure for a Bowie record.

I didn’t, and I danced to Prince and celebrated all that is good about life, love and music – I am sure Bowie approved.

On the 21st of April, I returned to JB High Fi to purchase 1989 by Taylor Swift. And then came the news that Prince has passed- I hold grave fears for Tay Tay.

I have long admired Prince- for me ‘1999’ was forever a favourite. It was midway through the year 1998 when I started preparing New Years Eve celebrations. As I was without a personal credit card, I borrowed one and an online order was placed for ‘ The Best of Prince’ cd to be shipped from the US to Austinmer, Wollongong, NSW. The delivery took months- and arrived just in time to be played on full volume as the clock stuck 12 midnight. It was fabulous and worth the $60.25 credit card charge.

Fast forward to March 2016, and I was listening to my recent Prince purchase as I was driving to a friends mothers funeral. The lyrics from the classic ‘ lets go crazy’ really got me- never had a song seemed more appropriate-

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today
To get though this thing called life

Prince wrote the song aged 25. It would appear he was already aware that life is bloody hard, it will be our biggest challenge, just surviving the day to day.

You can choose your approach to this hard hitting reality- rally against it or join in the celebration of living in a world of constant change and flux.

Prince was so on the money ‘ let’s go crazy, let’s get loose- we are all gonna die’

Life is hard, live to the fullest, love and laugh often. I knew with certainty the person who life’s passing we celebrated last month has taken Princes advice seriously.

So thank you Prince.
For your music, your unlimited talent and the sense of occasion you bring to each and every song.
I promise to ‘ go crazy’ on a regular basis- life is too damm short, and you are one of many people who have taught me that.

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