I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane. I love bushwalking, kayaking, wildlife, history and travel.
I was fortunate recently to attend the opening of the "Tasmanian Love Stories" Art Exhibition at the Deloraine Creative Studios Gallery at 59 Emu Bay Road, opposite the chemist in Deloraine, in Tasmania's North West.
Meander Valley Mayor, Craig Perkins opened the printmaking art and story exhibition on Saturday 3rd February. The art will be on display until 25 February 2018.
A Berger, E Archer, R, Donaldson, J Freestun with Mayor Craig Perkins
Each piece of art has an interesting story attached to it, so you need to take time to read the stories. Some of them are heart wrenching. The stories have been well researched and all involve loves and passions from Tasmanian history.
Elizabeth Archer created "An Unfortunate Son". The artwork shows one of the tokens made by Thomas Alsop, who was convicted of stealing sheep and transported to Van Dieman's Land in 1833 when he was twenty-one years old. He made two tokens out of copper pennies and sent one home to his mother in England. He wrote on it "Accept this dear mother from your unfortunate son... ". Thomas never got back to visit his mother again. He was pardoned in 1850 and died in 1891 in Tasmania.
Another tragic story in the exhibition is "The Necklace" by R Wood (Rebecca Donaldson). It tells the sad story of a young Aboriginal girl called Mary. Mary was born in 1835 at Wybalenna on Flinders Island, where her tribe had been sent from Tasmania. She was the daughter of a Port Davey chieftain, Towtrer (also written as Towgerer) and his wife, Wongerneep.
Jane Franklin, wife of Sir John Franklin, Governor of Tasmania, adopted her as a five year old. They took her back to Hobart where she lived in luxury and grandeur and they called her Mathinna. The Hobart Mercury's report of Mathinna, said Mathinna arrived at Government House with a kangaroo skin, a rush basket, some shell necklaces and a pet possum.
After three years, the Franklins returned to England in 1843 and Mathinna went to the Queen's Asylum (Orphan School), where the other children shunned her. A year later she was sent back to Wybalenna, but she wasn't accepted there either.
Rebecca told me Mathinna was so unhappy she started drinking alcohol and died when she was still very young by drowning in a puddle of water when she was unconscious.
I asked Rebecca why the Franklins didn't take Mathinna back with them to England. She said doctors in Hobart advised against it because they said the young girl would die from the cold, wet climate over there.
Thomas Bock painted a portrait of Mathinna aged about seven in 1842, in a bright red dress with bare feet. Bangarra Dance Theatre Company has created a dance about Mathinna's life story.
I grew up in Tasmania and had never heard the story of Mathinna. I only knew of the town Mathinna in the north east of the state.
A couple of artist, Janet Freestun's pictures describe an amazing love story about a woman and her cows. Mrs Annie Beechey was an early settler in the Pyengana District on the East Coast of Tasmania. In winter 1908 she left her property to look for a lost calf. She got lost in the bush for nine days and despite large search parties looking for her, they did not find her. Eventually when everyone had given up hope, she emerged out of the bush. People were amazed she had survived. She told an incredible story of sheltering in hollow logs, eating stinging nettles and being stalked by two Tasmanian tigers. She became known as Iron Annie Beechey and was Tasmanian Woman of the Year in 1909.
Four of the artists came up from Hobart to attend the official opening. They included Anna Berger, Elizabeth Archer, Janet Freestun and Rebecca Donaldson. The other artists are Josefa Abrahams, Nicki Adams, Jenny Blake, Barbara Boyle, Grace Cumming and Cecily Lazenby. Rebecca grew up in nearby Westbury and went to high school in Deloraine.
It was great to see some young artists at the opening. I met three local ones who all live in Deloraine: Andi Shandi, Dylan Sullivan and Caitlin Kilbride. I also met some people at the opening who had moved from interstate specifically to the Deloraine area because of its strong arts scene, although one couple from Perth said they had moved for the cooler weather in Tasmania. They were not very impressed with the current heat wave.
There were art works about long lost love letters and a love stuck young man prospecting for sapphires to make a ring. The love letter "My Darling Enid" was written by Premier Lyons to his wife, Enid. The letter was found in the walls of an old house in Deloraine over a hundred years after it was written. Artist Elizabeth Archer has two pictures depicting Premier Lyons and Enid.
The young man spent many hours fossicking for beautiful sapphires for a ring for his love. Artist Grace Cumming has three lovely pieces in the exhibition, The Fossicker, Panning for Sapphires, and Gemstones.
R Wood has a fascinating story about the Mystery of M.E.A.K. This colourful artwork shows yellow tailed black cockatoos circling above a solitary woman walking along a deserted beach. The woman is only known by the initials M.E.A.K. and was described by early Irish exiles to Tasmania as the most beautiful woman in Tasmania.