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Posts Tagged ‘australia’

Photo: Australian Museum.
The Australian Magpie is a clever songbird that inhabits nearly 90 percent of mainland Australia.

Today’s article by Anthony Ham at the New York Times is reminding me of the children’s book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, in which a determined mouse helps lab rats escape from scientists using them for experiments.

He writes, “The Australian magpie is one of the cleverest birds on earth. It has a beautiful song of extraordinary complexity. It can recognize and remember up to 30 different human faces.

“But Australians know magpies best for their penchant for mischief. … Magpies’ latest mischief has been to outwit the scientists who would study them. Scientists showed in a study published [in] the journal Australian Field Ornithology just how clever magpies really are and, in the process, revealed a highly unusual example in nature of birds helping one another without any apparent tangible benefit to themselves.

“In 2019, Dominique Potvin, an animal ecologist at University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, set out to study magpie social behavior. She and her team spent around six months perfecting a harness that would carry miniature tracking devices in a way that was unintrusive for magpies. They believed it would be nearly impossible for magpies to remove the harnesses from their own bodies.

“Dr. Potvin and her team attached the tracking devices and the birds flew off, showing no signs of obvious distress. Then everything began to unravel.

“ ‘The first tracker was off half an hour after we put it on,’ she said. ‘We were literally packing up our gear and watching it happen.’

“In a remarkable act of cooperation, the magpie wearing the tracker remained still while the other magpie worked at the harness with its beak. Within 20 minutes, the helping magpie had found the only weak point — a single clasp, barely a millimeter long — and snipped it with its beak. …

The scientists took six months to reach this point. Within three days, the magpies had removed all five devices.

“ ‘At first it was heartbreaking,’ Dr. Potvin said, ‘but we didn’t realize how special it was. We went back to the literature and asked ourselves, “What did we miss?” But there was nothing because this was actually new behavior.’

“The only similar example of what Dr. Potvin described as ‘altruistic rescue behavior’ — where birds help other birds without receiving tangible benefits in return — was when Seychelles warblers helped other members of their social group escape from sticky seed clusters in which they had become entangled.

“The magpies’ behavior was, Dr. Potvin said, ‘a special combination of helping but also problem solving, of being really social and having this cognitive ability to solve puzzles.’ …

“The Australian magpie is a large black-and-white perching songbird, or passerine, that inhabits nearly 90 percent of mainland Australia. … Remarkably, magpies can recognize the faces of as many as 30 people, which is the average number who live within a magpie’s territory, which is the average number who live within a magpie’s territory. ‘Very rarely do magpies attack more than one or two people,’ said Darryl Jones, a magpie expert at Griffith University. ‘It’s the same individual people that they attack each time.’

“And magpies have long memories: One of Dr. Jones’s research assistants was attacked upon his return after 15 years away from one bird’s territory. …

“If more than 30 people pass through a bird’s territory, ‘they actually start stereotyping people,’ [Sean Dooley, the public affairs manager of Birdlife Australia] said. ‘People who resemble 10-year-old boys are much more likely to be swooped, because those are the kids who are more likely to be throwing sticks and stones, shouting and chasing and running at magpies.’

“Dr. Jones calls the magpies’ ‘gorgeous, glorious caroling song’ another example of their intelligence.

“With more than 300 separate elements, he said, ‘it’s unbelievably complex. In order to remember and repeat a song of that complexity every single morning without error, you have to have a big brain.’

“Dr. Potvin and her team have shelved their original study. But they can’t help but ponder a bigger question: ‘What else are magpies capable of?’ ”

More at the Times, here.

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Photo: Georges Lentz.

This water tank is also known as the Silver Tank because once upon a time it was painted in silver anti-rust paint. Read about a sound-art installation here that was a collaboration between the composer Georges Lentz and the architect Glenn Murcutt, in Cobar, Australia.

It’s always interesting to learn what inspires an artist. Inspiration from an old, rusted water tank may be unusual, but creative people are like that. It’s not really surprising.

Casey Quackenbush reported the story at the New York Times in January, “Life in Cobar was a delicate thing until the arrival of the Silver Tank.

“In the vast, red-dirt hinterland of Australia, over 400 miles northwest of the shores of Sydney, rainwater is scarce. ​​For thousands of years, the nomadic Aboriginal Ngiyampaa people excelled at the art of survival by creating natural rock reservoirs. But after European settlers discovered copper and gold in the area in the 1870s, enough water was needed to sustain a booming mining town. Reservoirs were dug. Water was trained in from afar. Then, in 1901, a 33-foot-high steel water tank painted silver, hence its nickname, was erected about a mile outside of town. While the threat of drought remained (and remains to this day), it turned dusty Cobar, a freckle at the edge of the Outback, into something of a desert oasis.

“Nowadays, Cobar pipes in its water from the Burrendong Dam, about 233 miles east, and the tank, whose silver finish long ago succumbed to rust and graffiti, is empty of water. It has, however, been filled with something new — music.

“On April 2, after two decades of work, it will be officially reborn as the Cobar Sound Chapel, an audacious sound-art collaboration between Georges Lentz, one of Australia’s leading contemporary composers, and Glenn Murcutt, an Australian Pritzker Prize- and Praemium Imperiale award-winning architect.

“For his reimagining of the roofless tank, Murcutt installed an approximately 16-foot cube within its cylindrical space, in which Lentz’s ‘String Quartet(s)’ (2000-21), a 24-hour-long classical-meets-electronica work, will play on loop via a quadraphonic sound system. Inside the chamber is a concrete bench that seats up to four, from which one can look out through the ceiling’s gold-rimmed oculus. Morning, noon and night, then, the otherworldly sonic stream will reverberate throughout the concrete booth. …

“Lentz has been consumed by questions of cosmology and spirituality ever since he was a child. Born in Echternach, a small town in Luxembourg that formed around a seventh-century abbey, he grew up attending classical music festivals and stargazing with his dad. Later, he studied music in Hanover, Germany. While riding the train to university in the fall of 1988, he happened upon a story in the German science magazine Geo about the creation of the universe. It threw the tininess of humanity into sharp relief for him. …

“Ever since, Lentz has devoted his entire body of work to exploring the questions of the cosmos, transforming his initial fear into a quest for contemplation, one that only intensified following his 1990 move to Australia and exposure to the Outback’s ocean of sky. Both a continuation and culmination of his work, ‘String Quartet(s)’ began as an attempt to translate that sky into a score.

“To do so, he collaborated with the Noise, an experimental string quartet that’s based in Sydney. They used a range of techniques; to mirror a starry night, for example, the musicians invoked the pointillism of the contemporary Aboriginal painter Kathleen Petyarre, plucking their bows at the top of their instruments to create contained bits of sound. …

“They ended up with about six hours’ worth of music, which, through digital editing, Lentz expanded into a 24-hour, techno-infused soundscape of terror, wonder and reverence. …

“Around 2000, Lentz began dreaming of a music box amid a copper landscape, a place where his music could live alongside its muse. But it wasn’t until he played a concert in Cobar in 2008 that he considered the town as a potential site.

“He pitched the idea to the Cobar Shire Council, which later proposed the hilltop bearing the tank, suggesting it be demolished to make room. ‘Absolutely not!’ Lentz said. Soon after, he called Murcutt, 85, who is celebrated for hand-drawn, landscape-specific designs inspired by Australian vernacular architecture. …

“Murcutt has always been drawn to the desert, whose sparseness resonates with the Aboriginal mantra — touch the earth lightly — by which he tries to abide. In keeping with that idea, he set out to design, largely thanks to governmental funding, a simple, solar-powered chapel that would unify sound, site and atmosphere.

“Two large slabs of concrete mark the entrance outside. Inside, the cubic space (which is slightly slanted to optimize acoustics) is stark, just like the desert itself. In the four corners of the ceiling, sunlight streams through windows of Russian blue glass painted by the local Aboriginal artist Sharron Ohlsen, who also employs pointillism in her work. And, over the course of each day, an ellipse of light traverses the floor and concrete walls.”

More at the Times, here.

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Photo: Christopher Hopkins/The Guardian.
Back To Back acting ensemble member Mark Deans takes part in a weekend workshop at the Geelong Theatre in Australia. The group, which features people with disabilities, just won the “Nobel prize for theater,” says the Guardian.

I imagine there’s nothing like being recognized for great work when you least expect it. When you are just doing what gives you joy. That’s the recent experience of a specialized theater company in Australia.

Lyn Gardner reports at the Guardian, “A small Australian theatre company made up of neurodiverse and disabled actors has won one of the world’s richest theatre prizes, the DK2.5m (~$371,000) Ibsen award.

“Back to Back, which was established in 1987 and is based in Geelong, were announced as the winners of the biennial prize on Sunday night in Norway. The pioneering theatre company is the first Australian recipient of the award, dubbed ‘the Nobel prize for theatre,’ which goes to an individual or company ‘that has brought new artistic dimensions to the world of drama or theatre.’

“Back to Back is renown for their acclaimed and often confronting shows, like 2011’s Ganesh Versus the Third Reich, which sees the cast members interrupt the show to question their right to perform it, about the Hindu deity traveling to Germany to reclaim the swastika from the Nazis. Their other shows include Food Court (2008), Lady Eats Apple (2016) and The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes (2019). …

“ ‘It is such an honor for all of us to get that award and to receive it from that panel,’ [ensemble member Sarah] Mainwaring said. … It’s so rewarding for us to know that we can go on, and build our work.’ …

“Back to Back’s artistic director Bruce Gladwin told the Guardian he was ‘shocked’ by the news. When he was first contacted by the Norwegian National Theatre, which takes part in the announcement, he thought they wanted to collaborate. ‘But in that meeting, they announced that we’d won it. None of the ensemble had any idea that they were in contention for it, let alone that they’d won. They were just so moved that their work was acknowledged at that level.

“Awards are strange because you don’t necessarily make the work to receive them. This just came out of the blue. I feel really honored that this group of international theatre practitioners have been watching the company’s work for close to two decades. They’ve acknowledged the ensemble’s insight as social commentators.’ …

“Norway’s ministry of culture made the announcement on Sunday local time, timed to mark the birthday of celebrated Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen.

“ ‘We are proud to be able to honor an outstanding and unique theatre company that asks questions of their audience, of society and of each other through groundbreaking productions,’ said chair of the prize committee, Ingrid Lorentzen. … In a letter detailing its decision, the prize panel praised Back to Back’s shows as ‘some of the most memorable productions of 21st century theatre.

“ ‘There is no need for exposition in their theatre, no overreliance on dialogue, no need for a proximity of performer and role. Back to Back create a theatre that doesn’t follow the rules; they take over spaces that have been marginalized, erased or rendered insignificant … this is a theatre that defies a tick box culture. It’s a theatre – both pragmatic and metaphysical – that gravitates around what it means to live in the fullest sense of the word at this precise moment in history.’ “

More at the Guardian, here.

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Art: Renoir.

When I was a child, I went through a period of wanting to be a ballet dancer. It was a thrill to have a small role in the Elysian Fields of Gluck’s Orpheus alongside grown-up ballerinas and opera singers. But as ballet lessons waned, other interests took their place.

Later, as a worrywort adult, when a dancer I knew kept getting injuries, I began to think of ballet as a dangerous sport. Today’s post celebrates a revolution in addressing ballet injuries.

From Nick Miller at the Age: “Is injury common among ballet dancers? Yes. But perhaps not for the reasons you might think. A study in Britain in 2014 found that professional dancers were far more likely to suffer injuries than rugby players: 80 per cent of dancers incur at least one injury a year that affects their ability to perform, compared to 20 per cent for rugby or football players.

“Muscles and joints were the most common sites for injury, according to the British Fit to Dance 2014 survey. Other studies found that over-use was the most common cause of injuries for female dancers while men were more susceptible to sudden, traumatic injuries. And they found that younger dancers were more likely to be injured than older ones. …

“[Matthew Wyon, professor of dance science at the University of Wolverhampton and one of dance science’s leading experts] believes it’s because of the way dancers train.

“ ‘None of their training causes them to get either stronger or fitter until right up close to a performance. Ballet dancers are technically unbelievable. They’ve got an economy of movement we never see in sport. But it means the dance no longer puts a stress on the body. They don’t have that physical adaptation. So, in fact, the better your dancer is, the less fit they are. Because dance doesn’t stress them any more.’

“On the face of it, the lifts and jumps that dancers perform seem to require extraordinary strength. But, behind the scenes, a lot is accomplished by perfect balance; by aligning bones and locking joints so that, rather than relying on muscles to hold your partner aloft, the weight transfers through your frame to the floor. …

“Evidence of their reliance on technique can also be found in dancers’ almost freakish ability to ignore fatigue when it matters.

“In one experiment, Wyon’s team made a dancer exercise until they were ‘absolutely dead on their feet’ and then perform a double pirouette on to arabesque (which is where they stand en pointe with one leg in the air behind). ‘And they could pull it off, even when they were having trouble doing the fatiguing dance in between. As soon as they were being watched, or having the data collected, they could pull it out. This is just a phenomenon and we’re trying to explain it – and it could be how they’re trained.’

“Technique, it seems, honed over hours of practice each day and since an early age, hides a multitude of flaws. Wyon has seen a male dancer ‘built like a stick insect’ who could lift any of the women in the company – purely through ability. ‘His technique was so good for doing it, beautifully. Once. But if you asked him to do it three times, he couldn’t. … They’re always training and dancing at close to their maximum.’ …

“The Australian Ballet is one of a group of pioneering dance companies around the world that have beefed up their in-house medical expertise and are leading the way in the search for better treatment, rehabilitation and – most importantly – injury prevention.

“Dr Sue Mayes is the director of artistic health at the ballet, where she’s worked since 1997 – at first in the littlest room in the building as the company’s first full-time touring physio, now leading a high-tech medical and physiotherapy operation. …

“ ‘We’re [always] going to see if we can do it non-surgically,’ says Mayes, ‘because a dancer loves that swan neck, that hyper-extended shape. If you lose even five degrees of that, it’s going to be obvious to the eye and harder to function with. So, we avoid surgery at any cost – we’ve done very few operations in the last 10 years.’

“For a year, [Benedicte Bemme, an injured dancer] had to run through a simple, repetitive exercise routine involving the movement method Pilates, little jumps, or jogging up and down a stairwell, designed to restore strength and function to her foot.

“It may sound simple, but in ballet it is a revolution. Rather than rushing dancers to hospital, they are experimenting with techniques to painstakingly rebuild the dancer from the inside out. Research published by Mayes and her team looks at each joint and each injury, and assesses what particular types, frequency and power of exercise are best to get a dancer back to the stage.”

Read more at the Age, here.

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Photo: Daniel Norris via Unsplash.
Koalas, decimated by Australian bush fires in recent years, may be surviving at higher elevations than previously expected.

Researchers in Australia are trying to unravel a mystery about koalas in order to protect them. But some koalas may be doing OK on their own.

Michael E. Miller reports at the Washington Post that the scientists “had been stalking the remote, fire-scorched stretch of forest for an hour in the sizzling midday sun when Karen Marsh spotted something on the trunk of a tall mountain gum.

“ ‘Do you see all the claw marks?’ the ecologist asked a student research assistant, pointing to scratches in the wood above a blackened base. ‘Something definitely likes going up this tree.’

“Marsh peered up at the canopy of eucalyptus leaves, hoping to catch a glimpse of the animal she and a small team had spent weeks searching for — a koala. But one of Australia’s most iconic animals is getting harder to find.

“Two years ago, when bush fires supercharged by climate change killed or displaced an estimated 3 billion animals, thousands of koalas were among the dead. Between the blazes, drought, disease and deforestation, almost a third of the country’s koalas have disappeared since 2018, according to one conservation group. The federal government is weighing whether to label half the country’s koalas as endangered.

“The collapse is especially severe in New South Wales, where the bush fires destroyed 70 percent of some koala populations and a state inquiry warned that the species will probably go extinct before 2050 without urgent government intervention.

“Marsh and her colleagues had come to Kosciuszko National Park on a mission. For decades there had been speculation that koalas roamed its 1.7 million mountainous acres.

Now, with the 2019-2020 bush fires boosting funding and urgency, the scientists aimed to determine whether koalas were hiding in one of the country’s best-known wilderness areas.

“The discovery would do more than just increase the known number of koalas. It would also add to growing evidence that koalas can live at higher elevations, raising hopes that the marsupials might survive global warming better than feared.”

According to the Post, koalas were hunted nearly to extinction from the late 18th century to the early 20th. Even after hunting was outlawed, they “continued to suffer from a chlamydia epidemic and a habitat shortage as eucalyptus forests were paved for subdivisions. Although adapted to Australia’s frequent dry spells, the animals couldn’t cope with a climate-change-fueled drought in 2018 and 2019 that saw dehydrated koalas literally dropping from trees.

“Then came the Black Summer bush fires, which burned more than 20 percent of Australia’s forests. Marsh, a research fellow at Australian National University in Canberra, watched as the blaze roared to within a few hundred yards of her house. She and her colleagues began receiving calls from people who had rescued koalas, some badly singed but others simply emaciated.

“ ‘They were in awful condition,’ Marsh said of the roughly 30 koalas that ended up at the lab. As nocturnal animals, even a small rise in temperature can make koalas less hungry. But heat can also play havoc with a koala’s ability to break down the toxins in eucalyptus.

“While Marsh and her colleagues nursed the koalas back to health, they were pleased to see the notoriously picky eaters were able to consume some types of epicormic growth, the green shoots that sprout from burned eucalyptus trees and can be especially toxic. That enabled the researchers to release the animals into the scorched landscape a few months later. When they did, they were surprised to find that koalas that had survived in the bush were doing just as well.

“ ‘Essentially, they recovered by themselves in the wild,’ Marsh said, adding that the findings, though still provisional, suggest koalas that survive bush fires are less susceptible to starvation than feared. …

“Scientists have long speculated that the stunning wilderness surrounding Australia’s highest peak could harbor koalas, but a 1940 sighting was followed by decades of silence. Then, in 2016, a motorist spotted a male koala crossing a highway running through the park and snapped a picture. The incident sparked renewed interest, and in the past three years, National Parks cameras set up to detect invasive species such as foxes and deer in Kosciuszko have captured images of koalas on four occasions. …

“With the koala mating season ending this month, the researchers have only a few more weeks to search for the animals in Kosciuszko. But they are only now recording some of the most promising sites, and the first batch of audio files have already come back with lots of potential hits.” More at the Post, here.

Should we be worried that human activity, often the cause of devastation to the koala world, should be pushing into a sanctuary? Those humans better not be carrying anything flammable!

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Photo: CC BY-NC 2.0.
Australian ash forests are home to many species, including arboreal species like the Greater Glider.

Speaking of damage to forests, remember the terrible bushfires in Australia just before the pandemic — all those pictures of traumatized koalas!

Well, as worried as I am about the environment right now, I’m going to focus on what Mister Rogers said his mother told him when there were tragedies in the world: “Look for the helpers.”

The radio show Living on Earth (2/7/20) tells us that helpers rose up in Australia to rebuild the eucalyptus and ash forests when helpers were needed.

“After years of repeated bushfires, some of Australia’s eucalyptus forests can no longer come back on their own, so humans are giving them a helping hand by carefully collecting and distributing their seeds. Owen Bassett of Forest Solutions and host Bobby Bascomb discuss how the reseeding works, and the impacts of prolonged drought and climate change on Australian forests. …

“BASCOMB: Bushfires have burned through dry habitats home to many of Australia’s most iconic species, like koalas, kangaroos, and wallabies. They’ve even burned the more humid eucalyptus forests, home to the lyre bird, lead beater possum, and the great glider – an animal so adorable it’s been nicknamed a flying teddy bear. Some of these humid forests aren’t naturally equipped to deal with frequent fires and are struggling to grow back on their own. … Owen Bassett is Director of Forest Solutions, which is helping the government reseed forests in Victoria and New South Wales. He joins us from Melbourne, Victoria. Owen, … please describe the forests where you work. What do they look like and what does it feel like to be there?

“BASSETT: [The] forests that I work in are tall mountain forests, they’re known as ash forest. I suppose in terms of stature they’re similar to your California redwoods. So they’re very tall, very large trees and sort of a wet forest. [You] might think that a lot of Australia is covered in dry forest; most of it is, of course, and most of it is arid, but along the southeast corner, we have beautiful wet forests that run up the Great Dividing Range and they are gorgeous to be in. They’re cool, they’re damp, full of great native wildlife. …

“We have all of those marsupials that you American people know about, the jumping ones and the kangaroos; we have a species, or a number of species of wallaby that live in those forests. And we also have arboreals, so these are mammals that live up in the canopy of the forest. And then we have this magnificent songster, I don’t know if you’ve heard of the superb lyrebird. It has the capacity to mimic a whole range of birds and sounds that it hears in the forest. And it’s an absolute joy to listen to them. …

“BASCOMB: I think we actually have some recordings of the lyrebird we can play here. Let’s have a listen.

“[They] have the ability to imitate the shutter sound of cameras. They can imitate the sounds of chainsaws, dogs barking, all sorts of things like that. But the main repertoire is, is the full suite of other birds that are, and animal sounds that are in the forest.

“BASCOMB: So you mention that this is a very wet forest. Why is it burning now, and how common is that? …

“BASSETT: All eucalypts have evolved with fire, so fire is part of the environment here in Australia, a little bit like your California. But the thing is that, you know, we do have a changing climate here at the moment, a drying climate. And we’re currently caught in this real cycle of droughts, okay, so, in southeast Australia, we had this mammoth drought. We refer to it as the Millennial Drought. It went for 12 years, from 1997 to 2009. So what that left was this huge legacy of soil moisture deficit. … The species needs at least 20 years to be able to then reproduce, because young trees don’t flower. … We [have] forests that are at the stage of population collapse. Classically, it occurs in species like alpine ash and mountain ash that, you know, require much longer periods of fire intervals to survive.

“BASCOMB: So it sounds like if there was no intervention, these forests would likely turn into some different type of ecosystem altogether, maybe savanna or grassland or something like that. …

“BASSETT: These species are obligate seeders — if we have enough seed, and we have the means to spread that seed where the forest is going to experience population collapse, then we can intervene, lay seed on the ground or sow seed on the ground, and these forests will return. But it’s easier said than done. So we have to collect the seed, we have to distribute the seed, and that’s a mammoth operation. …

“BASSETT: Mountain ash, for example, is the tallest flowering plant in the world. And every year I go up in a light aircraft, and I actually map the distribution of the flowering. So once it’s flowered and we know where it is in the landscape, one year later, we can expect that there will be seed there. And so at that point, we send climb teams in and they climb these tall 80-meter trees. And they de-limb, just [to] keep the tree alive. We … take just a section of that crown out and from that, we can pick the seed pods, if you like. They’re sent away and the seeds extracted from that fruit or those pods. The seed looks a little bit like coarse pepper, so tiny seeds, the seeds are not, not big and it’s extraordinary to think that such a tall tree, something akin to your California redwoods, comes from this tiny, tiny piece of cracked-pepper size seed.”

“BASSETT: Yeah. So the concept of a seed bank is one that, you know, you put some seed away for a rainy day. We needed 10 tonnes of seed this year. At the moment, we might have a third, maybe to a half of that. Now I’ve been advocating for a seed bank for about 10 years, and the state government has only ever funded small seed collection operations that were emergency in nature, if you like. “Okay, we’ve got a bushfire, we’d better go and get some seed.”

Read what happens next at Living on Earth, here. There’s more at the Australian tree seed centre, too.

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Photo: Paul Braven/ AAP.
Images in support of the men and women fighting devastating bushfires were projected onto the Sydney Opera House January 2020

Remember the massive fires in the Australian bush and all the terrified koalas? It wasn’t that long ago. Artists were among those who used their talents to raise funds in the aftermath. I think the opinion piece written for the Conversation in January 2020 about Australia foreshadows the many ways artists were destined to help during the international disaster we now refer to as Covid.

Jo Caust, associate professor at the University of Melbourne, wrote the op-ed because at the time, a government was treating the arts as a nice-to-have but unnecessary frill.

Caust wrote, “Artists are again finding themselves at the receiving end of criticism over funding.

“A mural on the wall of a fire station funded through the Western Australia Percent for Art scheme has met with a hostile reaction in the light of the bushfire crisis.

“In WA [Western Australia] all new public buildings costing $2 million or more must spend 1% of the building costs on public art projects – a bipartisan initiative since 1989.

“Public art plays an important role in connecting communities, humanizing the environment and giving a community a unique identity, but WA Shadow Minister for Emergency Services Steve Thomas told the ABC ‘I think it is time for this policy to end. [It] is more important to put that money into the equipment [emergency services] require rather than art work to decorate the building,’ he said.

“Artists are a critical community resource, but this criticism is a familiar refrain in Australia, where arts practice is seen as non-essential.

“The federal government determined in December 2019 the arts no longer matter to the nation by disappearing the arts from mention as a governmental responsibility and continuing to cut arts funding.

Across the country, the average income of artists from their artwork is A$18,800, yet artists have raised millions of dollars in support of the 2020 bushfire crisis.

“Comedian Celeste Barber has raised over $50 million from more than 1.2 million people to help those who need it. Pink, Elton John, Metallica, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, Chris Hemsworth, Kylie and Danni Minogue – to name only a handful – have personally donated large amounts of their own money to help fighters and victims.

“Visual artist Scott Marsh raised more than $60,000 by painting a mural in Chippendale. … The Stardust Circus prevented a blackout at the Ulladulla Evacuation Centre by lending their generator. Theatre companies are organizing collections at their performances for bushfire relief.

More than 32 concerts are taking place across the country with musicians giving their time for free to fundraise. Visual artists are auctioning their work. Writers, illustrators and editors are donating books, mentoring, and naming rights to characters in forthcoming books to support firefighters. …

“Art and artists can have a transformational role in rural communities by building resilience. Rural communities value their local history and artists can play an essential role in recording and validating a community’s culture.

“Arts institutions, such as regional galleries, can also have a dramatic impact on a community. In 2012, the Bendigo Art Gallery generated $16.3 million for the local economy. The Book Town festival in Clunes, the Writers Festival in Byron Bay and the Folk Festival in Port Fairy are all crucial to the sense of community in those towns.

“Artists can be critical in restoring hope and providing healing to a community after it has experienced trauma. The Creative Recovery Network works together with emergency management agencies across Australia to help communities affected by trauma and natural disasters to recover from their experiences. …

“While the arts can create provocation, they can also be a means of honoring feelings and processing grief. There are times when communities need more than financial relief to recover from loss. They need a way to make sense of it so they can move forward.

“Artists have stepped up in a huge way at this dark time in Australian history by volunteering their talents and resources to support communities and firefighters.

“They have demonstrated artists and arts practice can contribute to our society with passion, ingenuity, and imagination. It is time the arts and artists received the respect they deserve by our governments and the broader community.”

More at the Conversation, here.

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Maria Popova writes, “Daughters of the Bombay-born Australian entomologist Alexander Walker Scott [were] barely out of childhood when they started harmonizing their father’s scientific studies with their shared artistic gift.”

If you don’t yet follow Maria Popova at Brain Pickings, please consider doing so: she writes beautifully on topics you’re unlikely to hear about anywhere else. A recent post resurrects 19th century artist-scientist sisters. It draws on a book about them by Australian Museum curator, historian, and archivist Vanessa Finney called Transformations.

Popova writes, “A century after the self-taught German naturalist and artist Maria Merian laid the foundations of modern entomology with her stunning pictorial studies of butterflies in Surinam and a century before Vladimir Nabokov applied his glorious intellectual promiscuity to advancing the field, the Australian sisters Harriet and Helena Scott unleashed their immense talent and curiosity on the natural history of butterflies and moths. A century after their death, their stunning, scrumptious paintings would furnish one of the most heartening conservation triumphs in history. …

“The Scott sisters spent innumerable hours in the wilderness, studying the plants that sustained the insects, seeking to understand and document the intricate relationships of life. At a time when most natural history illustration depicted animals in black and white, islanded on the page as specimens extracted from their natural context and splayed for the human viewer’s eye, they chose to honor the vibrant living creatures within the web of life. …

“[After] their father died, forced to lean on their talent not along their passions but against their survival, they began taking commissions decorating wedding photographs with drawings of wildlife and plants, they painted commercial dinner plate sets, they made botanical illustrations for railway guides, they illustrated the first holiday cards featuring native Australian wildflowers. Scholars consider them Australia’s first paid female artists.

“Even so, the income was not enough for the sisters to subsist on. They made the difficult decision to sell their life’s work to the Australian Museum. …

“For a century, the Scott sisters’ work lay brown-papered in the underbelly of the museum, until curator Marion Ord rediscovered it with a gasp of awe and set about bringing it back to life in a book celebrating the museum’s bicentenary — a book on which conservationists began leaning to restore and rewild Ash Island, which industrial farming had left razed of trees and bereft of insects in the twentieth century. …

“A century after Harriet and Helena Scott returned their borrowed atoms to the web of life, more than 250,000 native trees have been replanted on their beloved Ash Island with the help of hundreds of volunteers, restoring the flood-plane rainforest of their childhood. Ash Island is now a national park.”

I must say, it always sets my teeth on edge to think about how difficult it has been historically for women to support themselves no matter how great their talent. Getting a nice reputation after death hardly seems enough.

More at Brain Pickings, here. Be sure to see Popova’s suggestions for “pairing” the article with related topics.

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Photo: The Guardian.
Sister Brigid Arthur, 86, and Anj Sharma, 16, are among a group who secured a judgment from the Australian federal court that found the government has a duty to protect young people from climate change.

If you ever feel powerless to do anything about climate change, consider how an 86-year-old nun and eight Australian teenagers stopped a massive new coal mine in its tracks by persuading a court that the needs of youth need to be addressed first. Fingers crossed that the success is more than temporary.

Adam Morton writes at the Guardian, “The federal court of Australia has found the environment minister, Sussan Ley, has a duty of care to protect young people from the climate crisis in a judgment hailed by lawyers and teenagers who brought the case as a world first.

“Eight teenagers and an octogenarian nun had sought an injunction to prevent Ley approving a proposal by Whitehaven Coal to expand the Vickery coalmine in northern New South Wales, arguing the minister had a common law duty of care to protect younger people against future harm from climate change.

“Justice Mordecai Bromberg found the minister had a duty of care to not act in a way that would cause future harm to younger people. But he did not grant the injunction as he was not satisfied the minister would breach her duty of care.

“David Barnden, a lawyer representing the children, said it was a historic and ‘amazing decision’ with potentially significant consequences.

“ ‘The court has found that the minister owes a duty of care to younger children, to vulnerable people, and that duty says that the minister must not act in a way that causes harm – future harm – from climate change to younger people,’ he said outside court.

‘It is the first time in the world that such a duty of care has been recognized, especially in a common law country.’

“He said Bromberg had indicated he would now take submissions before making further declarations about what the minister’s duty of care may mean for whether the mine extension could go ahead.

“Whitehaven Coal had a different interpretation of the judgment. In a statement to the stock exchange, it did not mention the duty of care finding, and said it welcomed the court dismissing the teenagers’ attempt to block Ley from approving the mine extension. …

“Speaking for the children, 17-year-old Ava Princi said it was ‘thrilling and deeply relieving’ that the justice had recognized the minister had a duty of care. …

“She said though an injunction was not granted the case was ‘not over yet. … There will be further submissions on what the duty of care means for the minister’s decision and the mine.’ …

“The court heard the expansion of the mine could lead to an extra 100m tonnes of CO2 – about 20% of Australia’s annual climate footprint – being released into the atmosphere as the extracted coal is shipped overseas and burned to make steel and generate electricity.

“In his judgment, Bromberg said the evidence presented to the court showed the potential harm the children could face due to global heating ‘may fairly be described as catastrophic, particularly should global average surface temperatures rise to and exceed 3C beyond the pre-industrial level.’ ” More at the Guardian, here.

It may not be over, but a finding for children and their future is important, and when added to other recent judicial decisions described in the Guardian article, there’s some reason for hope.

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Photo: NPY Women’s Council.
To combat coronavirus in Australia, “For the first time, Aboriginal health workers were given contact-tracing powers usually reserved for state health authorities.”

Recognizing that plagues of the past had wiped out whole indigenous communities, Australian authorities took action to get ahead of the coronavirus plague — with a particular focus on protecting elders.

At the Washington Post, Rachel Pannett reported on where their results stood in early April.

“From Alaska to the Amazon, Indigenous people are more likely to get sick with or die of covid-19, as the pandemic magnifies deep-rooted health and socioeconomic inequities. That is not the case in Australia.

“Not only have Indigenous Australians recorded far fewer infections per capita than their global counterparts, they are six times less likely than the wider Australian population to contract the coronavirus, government data shows.

“There have been no cases in remote communities, and not a single Aboriginal elder has died. Of the 149 cases involving Indigenous people since the start of the pandemic nationwide, few were serious enough to require hospitalization. …

“The vaccine rollout is also proceeding more smoothly in many Indigenous communities than elsewhere in Australia, where some clinics are complaining of empty vaccine fridges. Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders are being prioritized for vaccinations because of their higher risk of developing serious illness if infected.

“On the first day of the vaccine rollout in Sydney, one Aboriginal clinic booked all of its appointments in an hour, according to Aboriginal health officials. In the remote Australian-controlled islands of the Torres Strait — near Papua New Guinea, which is battling an outbreak — over 80 percent of adults have been vaccinated, officials said.

‘This is a most amazing response to the pandemic from a community that is so marginalized,’ said Fiona Stanley, an Australian epidemiologist specializing in public health. ‘This is probably the best evidence we have that if you put Aboriginal people in charge, then you get better outcomes.’

“First-nation people globally have a painful legacy of disease and its impact on elders, those most responsible for the survival of Indigenous culture. Europeans introduced smallpox and other diseases to the New World starting from around 1500, wiping out much of the Indigenous population. The 1918 flu pandemic destroyed entire villages. …

“The first case of the coronavirus in Australia, in January 2020 — a man from Wuhan, China, who arrived in Melbourne — was a wake-up call for the country, but especially for Australia’s Indigenous leaders. The new virus was striking older people, particularly those with chronic conditions. And being highly contagious, it was likely to spread like wildfire through remote Indigenous communities where overcrowding is common. …

“Pat Turner, chief executive of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organization, wrote to state and federal leaders in March 2020, asking them to use their powers to order the closure of remote communities to stop visitors from entering. Accordingly, the communities were sealed off.

“Lawyer Teela Reid kicked off efforts to protect elders in Gilgandra, a rural town 270 miles northwest of Sydney. ‘I could clearly see how catastrophic it could get in the country, if we got one case in our town of 3,000, because we don’t have the health resources,’ Reid said.

“The local municipality compiled a list of elders and made sure they did not need to leave their homes for food or medicines. Reid’s grandmother Stella, the town matriarch who presides over traditional ceremonies, went against her natural instincts and padlocked her gate.

” ‘It was hard for us,’ Reid said. ‘Our grandparents are often the people who raise children. But they also hold our story lines. They’re passed down orally. If you lose that, it’s gone.’ She added, ‘The ways in which many communities acted was through the natural instinct to be a survivor and to protect elders.’

“Before the pandemic, Aboriginal health organizations had been talking with government officials about plans to address a syphilis outbreak using local Indigenous health services. Australia’s chief medical officer at the time, Brendan Murphy, supported the approach, an endorsement that [Dawn Casey, who co-chairs a government task force established to develop a virus plan for Indigenous communities], says helped smooth the way for a community-led approach to the coronavirus.

“On Facebook, TikTok and Vimeo, Aboriginal health agencies launched coronavirus messages — including instructions on cough etiquette and hand hygiene — and interviews with trusted health officials, translated into local languages.”

More here.

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Photo: Rainer Jensen/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images.
A visitor walks through the exhibition of Aboriginal artist John Mawurndjul at the Sprengel Museum in Germany.

As much as we have appreciated seeing the art of indigenous people around the world, it can’t be right for museums and collectors just to help themselves. In the US, many items now being returned have religious significance for tribes or were raided from burial sites.

Perhaps as art gets repatriated, native communities will show some of the works in their own way. In any case, one country has big plans to get Aboriginal art back from overseas. Tessa Solomon writes at the Art Newspaper that Australia is putting serious money behind repatriation of artifacts.

“The Australian government has pledged A$10.1 million (about $7.2 million) in additional funds over four years toward the return Indigenous cultural heritage objects held in collections overseas. The pilot program was launched in 2018 with a A$2 million ($1.4 million) budget by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), a national institution that supports the cultural resurgence of Australia’s native peoples.

” ‘We wanted to help the nation understand that there was an Indigenous perspective on this history,’ Lyndall Ley, the executive director of the institution’s Return of Cultural Heritage project, told the Art Newspaper.

“The project’s first two years were focused on artifacts held in public collections overseas and will now expand to facilitate the return of objects held in private collections. According to Ley, a U.K.-based collector made the first private repatriation, retuning eight secular artifacts of the Australia’s Yindjibarndi community. …

“A report released in September by AIATSIS under the title Return of Cultural Heritage 2018-20 identified 199 overseas institutions with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage collections — collectively containing around 100,000 secular and ceremonial Indigenous objects. Some 33 percent of these objects are held in U.K. collections.

Of the 199 institutions identified by the report, 44 expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of returning Indigenous artifacts to their respective communities.

“The project’s second phase kicks off amid renewed interest. … In March, Arts Council England asked the Institute of Art and Law to develop guidance for U.K. museums on restitution, including advice on ‘dealing with claims and making decisions on the potential return of objects.’

“France voted this earlier this year to pass a bill to return 27 artifacts from French museums to Benin and Senegal. The vote followed a 2018 report on the repatriation of African artifacts commissioned by President Macron from the French historian Bénédicte Savoy and Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr, which recommended the restitution by French museums of works in their collections taken ‘without consent’ unless the institutions can prove the objects where acquired legitimately from former African colonies. Macron pledged in a speech in Burkina Faso that his government would facilitate ‘the temporary or definitive restitution of African heritage to Africa’ within five years.”

More at the Art Newspaper, here

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Photo: Shelby Sherritt.
Shelby Sherritt is relieved to be known on TikTok for something other than surviving cancer, writes the Guardian. She started off making pottery koalas, echidnas, possums. Now she grabs a random slip-casting mold, enjoying the surprise at the end.

People started following a young lady in Australia because of her rare cancer, but she’s much happier being followed for her cheery slip-cast pottery.

Matilda Boseley reports at the Guardian, “For years, Shelby Sherritt was known as the ‘cancer girl.’ …

“Sherritt had been featured in videos about young people going through cancer. … Now hundreds of thousands of people are following her online, but much to her surprise it has nothing to do with cancer. Instead, Sherritt has become internet famous for reviving the 70s craze of slip casting pottery.

‘It’s now become, “Oh she’s the artist,” it’s about my pottery, and I find that so empowering,’ she says with a laugh.

“Sherritt has gained half a million followers on TikTok by hosting a wildly successful series from her Ballarat art shed, where every week she makes a new piece from a giant pile of mystery slip-casting molds she got free from a man on Gumtree.

“In the one-minute videos, she walks to her giant pile of plaster molds, picks one, and pours in watery clay or ‘slip.’ Once it’s dried she reveals the model, usually a kitsch 70s mug or garden gnome. Sherritt then paints it. … Many are looking forward to these videos every week. …

“ ‘I think it’s about the mystery. The molds are so elusive on the outside, people are just like “oooh what could actually be in that?” ‘

“Her videos now regularly top a million views, something Sherritt says she could have never imagined when her life was focused solely on surviving.

“When Sherritt was 20 she came down with what felt like run-of-the-mill appendicitis.

“ ‘I was on holiday in Perth and I just could not get out of bed, I was in that much pain. And then we went to a doctor. … By the time I went into surgery, it had ruptured,’ she says.

“During the surgery her doctors discovered she was suffering from a rare form of appendiceal and bowel cancer. … The doctors spoke in a serious, quiet tone that filled Sherritt with fear. …

“ ‘I obviously had to put my life on pause,’ she says. ‘I couldn’t work, I couldn’t study, I had to just do the treatment.’ …

“In the deepest pits of her boredom, Sherritt says she gravitated towards her old art equipment that had been gathering dust, painting, drawing, and even sculpting from her bed. …

“ ‘My original work started off as Australiana pieces. So koalas, echidnas, possums, paying homage to the bushland.’

“As Sherritt’s treatments went on her pottery got better and better, and after the chemotherapy and more surgeries beat the cancerous cells back she started selling her work, and wondered if maybe this was her new path. At the start of 2020 Sherritt was able to make pottery her full-time job, and with her extra hours began uploading videos to TikTok to promote her business. …

“Her views rapidly grew when she began the slip-casting series, and the bump in sales meant she was well and truly making enough money to live off. …

“When Sherritt first went into remission the doctors told her if her cancer was going to come back, the chances are it would be in the first five years. But on 18 January this year, Sherritt finally completed that long and nerve-racking countdown, totally cancer-free. …

“ ‘The cancer definitely inspired me to grow, but now it’s the pottery itself that’s my narrative. … I feel really, really fulfilled now that I’m on this path.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here.

When I was in junior high, my parents were dismissive of the slip-cast dish I made for them because the school used molds (ie, not creative), but I was proud of it. Kids should be encouraged in whatever version of art interests them. You never know where an interest will take them — or what it will mean to them.

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Photo: Nadia Tugwell.
After the koala caused a multi-vehicle crash by ‘stomping’ on an Australian freeway, Nadia Tugwell put it in her car and called for help. The koala played around with the car’s steering wheel while waiting for Adelaide Koala Rescue and was ultimately released at a safe distance.

It was only last summer, when bushfires raged through koala habitat in Australia, that the adorable marsupials were threatened with extinction (story). Here’s a recent article about one that got itself into a different kind of danger but stayed calm and carried on.

Josh Taylor reported at the Guardian, “A koala crossing one of South Australia’s busiest freeways has led to a six-car pile-up as drivers abandoned their vehicles to mount a rescue of the ‘calm’ marsupial.

“[South Australia] police confirmed the multi-car crash occurred on Adelaide’s South Eastern Freeway. … A male driver reportedly was the first person to stop his car to try to rescue the koala before 7am. His car was then hit from behind, causing a chain reaction.

“An Adelaide woman, Nadia Tugwell, was behind the pile-up and said at first she couldn’t tell what was causing the delay in traffic. … Then Tugwell saw the koala moving between the cars and a concrete barrier in the middle of the freeway.

“ ‘The koala was just cute … sort of stomping between the cars and the barrier. Then I saw a lady running behind it, trying to catch it with a blanket or something.’

“Tugwell grabbed a jacket from her car and also raced towards the koala.

‘When it saw me it instantly turned around to run backwards but the other lady was there and so we jumped it, bundled it up, and it ended up in my car because she had children,’ she said.

“Tugwell had previously rescued animals from other roads so she had the number for the Adelaide Koala Rescue centre saved in her phone. She arranged to meet them at a nearby service station.

“While she waited an hour for the rescuer to arrive, Tugwell said the koala made itself at home in her car, including on the steering wheel.

“ ‘I was sitting there entertaining myself but I had to jump out of the car at that stage when he decided to take over,’ she said. …

“ ‘He was actually quite a calm koala, he didn’t even fight about being in the bag, he was just calm and went into the basket,’ Tugwell said.

“The volunteer released the uninjured koala back into the wild a kilometre from the freeway.

“An Adelaide Koala Rescuer volunteer, Ann Bigham, told the ABC, … ”The koala was in really good condition, it was lucky it hadn’t been hit at all and thanks to the rescuers it was kept safe.’ “

Wouldn’t it be something to have that experience? I’d love to be a koala hero like Tugwell. Can’t see it happening in New England, though.

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photo: Annette Ruzicka/ Guardian
Ngarinyin children playing in a region of Australia that’s reclaiming indigenous place names.

As a fan of efforts to preserve rare languages, I believe that using native people’s names for geographical places is also important. Brian Friel captures the concept in Translations, his play about English soldiers changing place names in Ireland: “It can happen that a civilisation can be imprisoned in a linguistic contour which no longer matches the landscape of … fact.”

Colonists always try to impose their culture, but in the end, it is unlikely to turn out well.

At the Guardian series “Indigenous Investigations,” Annette Ruzicka reports in a photo essay that the reinstatement of traditional place names in a region of Australia “signals a new wave of empowerment” for aboriginal people called the Ngarinyin.

“Hit the Gibb River Road out of Derby, Western Australia, and you find yourself heading towards the northern Kimberley plateau, a breathtaking landscape of sandstone ranges, rivers and boab-dotted savannah country. About 63,000 sq km of this land is Wilinggin country of the Ngarinyin people and their connection to country dates back 60,000 years.

“One of the first stops towards Wilinggin country passes the Queen Victoria Head – a rock formation bearing an uncanny resemblance to the famous monarch. While it’s a blunt reminder of colonialism, it’s also the gateway to an area that until very recently had far more dubious name – the King Leopold Ranges, named after the Belgian king responsible for grievous atrocities, brutal oppression and enslavement of African people. …

“After two years of work behind the scenes, traditional owner groups made some new headlines with a historic name change to the Wunaamin Miliwundi Ranges. It’s a hybrid name to represent both the Ngarinyin (Wunaamin) and Bunuba (Miliwundi) traditional names.

“Since then, another seven places in this conservation park have changed back to their Ngarinyin name.

“Since the Wanjina Wunggurr Wilinggin native title determination in 2004, the Ngarinyin people have made significant moves to empower their community and return to, and care for, country. One of the first things they set up after determination was an Indigenous ranger program: the Wunggurr Rangers.

“Ngarinyin man Robin Dann was one of the first rangers employed and is now head ranger, living on country in the Ngallagunda community, with his family. His younger brother Kane Nenowatt is more recent addition to the Wunggurr rangers while his wife, Tanya Spider, sits on the Wilinggin board of directors. …

“One of locations changed back to its traditional name is (the formerly named) Barker pool, now Dudungarri mindi. The name refers to the dreamtime story of the Wanjina spirit and the Yawarlngarri jirri (blue catfish) which live in this pool. This represents a rich and ancient history that Ngarinyin people hope to share with visitors alongside the staggering beauty of the region. …

“With it comes a genuine economy: employment and investment brought to the region by the people themselves. With a second ranger group on the way, the determination of the Ngarinyin people to stand on their own is a shining light in an uncertain world.” More at the Guardian, here.

On Facebook, I started following a different group of Australian indigenous people, NPY Women’s Council. The home page says it “is led by women’s law, authority and culture to deliver health, social and cultural services for all Anangu.” In one post, Nellie Patterson reported, “We went to the Olympics so that all the people there would see the strength of who we are. The Olympic experience has made us strong with a resolve that has never been shaken since.

“We did a really important inma (ceremony) in Sydney and we did it with the intention of making a deep impression on the people who saw it and in the hope of better relationships and collaborations with other people in the future. It was a very important occasion.

“My sister carried a great deal of valuable knowledge and she and I made this inma available through Women’s Council for the benefit of everyone across the country.” For more about the council, click here.

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Photo: Damien Finch et al
Mud-wasp “nests go hard and mineralise over time,” reports the BBC. “(1) Dating nest material on top of the paintings gives a minimum age only.” (2) Removing the nest allows researchers to ascertain the maximum age.

Prehistoric cave paintings, it seems, still have secrets for the enterprising to unravel. Researchers, with the active support of the local Aboriginal community, recently learned that calcified wasp nests could help determine when some of those paintings were created.

Jonathan Amos reported at the BBC, “When the veteran telecoms engineer Damien Finch went on a three-week bush walk in Australia’s Kimberley region, he became enthralled with its rock art. On his return home, he tried to find out more about these enigmatic aboriginal paintings and engravings.

” ‘I couldn’t believe how little was known about them; we didn’t even know how old they were,’ Damien said. ‘It seemed disrespectful that scientists hadn’t studied this stuff more; it was downplaying the importance of the culture,’ he told BBC News.

“Now, 10 years on and in his 60s, Damien is putting that right. He’s approaching the end of his doctoral research on the topic, and in [a February issue of] Science Advances journal, has published his own efforts to age the Kimberley’s so-called Gwion figures.

“These feature finely painted human forms, often in elaborate ceremonial dress and carrying spears and boomerangs. It was thought they were painted some 16,000 years ago, but the University of Melbourne investigator has been able to show the likely age is [about] 12,000 years ago.

“Dating rock art is really hard. Aboriginal artists use iron oxide pigments (ochre) which contain no organic material and are therefore resistant to any radiocarbon analysis.

“Damien has got around this by studying instead the scraps of organic matter stuck on top of and underneath the paintings. And for this, he’s working with wasps. In particular, the ones that build nests out of mud. …

“When the female wasp gathers her mud supplies she inevitably picks up fragments of charcoal from the Kimberley’s fire-prone landscape. And this charcoal can be radiocarbon dated. … Material that smothers pigment gives a minimum age; underlying material provides a maximum age.

“A distribution of dates from many locations enables an estimate to be made for when the Gwion style was in vogue. …

“The paintings [Damien] and his team have been working on are, of course, sites of immense cultural significance. All the sampling was guided and approved by representatives from the traditional owners of the artwork.

‘We couldn’t have done what we did without their active support and encouragement,’ ‘Damien told BBC News.

“He’s hopeful the mud-wasp dating technique can now be used at more locations right across the north of Australia, and perhaps at other rock art locations in the Americas and Europe.”

More at the BBC, here.

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