A quick dab here, a confident stroke there and the work is a complete – a beautiful piece of Aboriginal art to take home and treasure – not mine of course but that of one of Tropical North Queensland’s most talented artists, Brian Swindley, or Binna as he likes to be called.
Slow and steady, Binna advises during one of his art classes at the Janbal Gallery, but even with his wisdom built on more than 20 years experience, my burnie bean ends up looking more tragic than traditional.
Today, I am experiencing the wonders of Mossman. It is a cultural awakening filled with art, ancient stories from its rainforest people and breathtaking scenery.
Mossman’s KuKu Yalanji people have been roaming the ancient rainforest of this region for around 50,000 years. What is clear as my group and I step into the shadowy depths of this rainforest filled with forest fruits and legends from the past is their respect for nature.
Mossman Gorge is one of the few places in the country that visitors can gain an insight into the lives, culture and beliefs of Australia’s Indigenous population. A short drive in one of the centre’s shuttle bus, which travels along the Mossman River where the sound of crystal clear rapids rushing over the rocks can be heard, builds our excitement as we ready ourselves for the Dreamtime Gorge Walk. This easy walk takes approximately two hours and offers an incredible experience from the traditional smoking ceremony to ward off ill health to a stop at ‘the beach’, an exclusive waterhole just perfect for a swim (access dependent on weather). Keep your eyes trained on the rainforest and see it come to life as the Daintree Rainforest dragons come out to play, but watch out for the wait-a-while (lawyer vine), our guide Harold advises, or we could be waiting a while.
Thousands of years of knowledge are willingly shared as we are given an insight into this incredible ancient culture, complete with dreamtime legends and unique story telling. Billy tea and fresh damper fill our bellies as we come together to share our experience at the end. The Mossman Gorge Centre is at the heart of this beautiful country town, just 15 minutes drive from Port Douglas. This is also where Binna, who is the artist in residence at the Janbal Gallery resides. It is here you can try your hand at Indigenous art during a KuKu Yalanji Aboriginal Art Experience. Whether you are painting a canvas, boomerang or didgeridoo, these classes are a lot of fun.
It was a desire to share his culture and dreamtime stories that led him to offer the art classes.
”My art reflects the reef and rainforest of the country that I was raised and has been handed down from his family for generations,” he explains during his introduction.
Binna has a severe hearing disability but you wouldn’t know it. He is funny, charismatic and can lip-read extremely well. He also watches with great patience as we carefully select our paints and get down to work. All too soon it is time to put our tools down and examine our work.
Mossman is an area of outstanding natural beauty. The town is built around the Daintree Rainforest and the Mossman River. It is culturally rich and the only place in Australia where visitors are given a true insight into the ancient world of its KuKu Yalanji people.