A hot, HOT day in sunny outback Katherine Northern Territory, the mango trees are heavy with fruit – not quite ready to eat, except for the fruit bats that swarm in their millions, during the dark of night, screeching and squealing and fighting for their bite.
As I sit here, the air-conditioner struggling against the 37 degree heat outside, through the louvres the white clouds are building in to great big puff balls across the sky. They grumble and go grey as the wind swirls the leaves across the road. The fragrance of rain wafts by – sweet and strong with the smell of hot bitumen and red dust.
I hear fighting and swearing outside the other side of my office windows as the aboriginal campers, called ‘long grassers’ carry their afternoon shopping spree for alcohol from the bottle shop around the corner. A man has a carton of ‘green cans’ hoisted on to his shoulder, another carrying bottles of Passion Pop. Yes Passion Pop – because it is cheap. A rather incongruous drink to be consuming at two o’clock in the afternoon whilst sitting on the steaming hot cement bike path on the banks of the Katherine River. I peer out to see a very drunk woman screaming at a man, demanding the return of her two litre cask of Moselle. The others in the group walk ahead, oblivious to the fight brewing just metres away.
The wind whips the leaves and grass around their skinny legs, carrying their voices up the street. Doors bang and cars wizz by.
I have just had a long conversation with an arts organisation in Alice Springs,1500 kms south, about touring visual arts shows in 2012 and the new $7 million Cultural Precinct being built and what an impact this will have on the arts and cultural identity of Katherine This was followed by a phone conversation with another person in Darwin, 300 kms norht, asking if we have any Hip Hop performers and/or musicians who can deliver workshops to youth. No we don’t – so this leads to another discussion about the new cultural precinct as a gathering place to develop the arts here.
I had lunch today with five of my Council members at the local RSL CLub. The dining room was dark, quiet and cool and the Barramundi with salad for $16.00 was beautiful. We are now only 5 months away from an election in March 2012 and our four-year term as the elected members for the people of the Katherine, comes to an end.
Who will run and again and who wont? Who will challenge the current unpopular Mayor? That I will reveal as it unfolds.
The group of drinkers is increasing as another mob call out from across the road – the Community Patrol vehicle with its people cage on the back, cruises slowly by. The group yell and whistle and wave at the drivers. One of the women on the sidewalk yells out something to thepeople in te car and the sidewalk group bursts in loud laughter.
The phone rings again and I discuss more shows and projects for 2012. It’s that time of year, all the arts groups are preparing grants and applications to various funding bodies, both local and Federal. Co Opera are already booking tentative dates for the 2013 regional tour of ‘Don Giovanni’.
As I write these words I struggle with the conundrum of art and culture – As I discuss hip hop and opera, the phone ringing, and in the back ground Professor Rolly Sussex discussing the English language on ABC Radio; an endless stream of email messages going backwards and forwards, one of the drunk women is laying on the ground with three of her friends trying to pull her to her feet, dragging her and yelling at her to keep walking.
Everyday crowds of the original inhabitants of this country stagger past my window, 60,000 years of art and culture blinded in a thunder-cloud of alcohol abuse. Lost languages and stories. A lost will for survival.
But – this is another story to be dealt with another day.