20 August 2007

Darwin Day 3 - Tiwi Islands & Darwin Festival

For our third day in Darwin (Friday), we booked a one-day tour to Tiwi Islands, inhabited by an aboriginal culture unique to these islands. There are two islands, Melville and Bathurst, but only Bathurst Island is open to the public. Transportation to the island is largely via small aircraft, a ferry operates only on days with calm enough water.I volunteered to sit in the co-pilot chair right next to Mel, our pilot.
My view from the cockpit.
Mel, our pilot, explains the safety features of our Cessna 404.

Tours of Nguiu, Bathurst Island, are guided by local people and include a visit to the cemetery, two arts & crafts studios, the mission, the cultural museum and a picnic/guided nature walk at a local billabong.Our first stop was at the Patakijiyali Museum.

We then stopped at the Artist Co-op where we could talk to local artists about their works and purchase some of their wares - I bought a hand-carved bird and Julie bought a hand-stamped bag.
Julie's bag was much like this one being stamped at the Co-op.Our second arts & crafts stop took us to the pottery house and the wood carving shed - where they work on carving the totems, both for burial poles and for sale.

Our next stop took us to the Tiwi Tours "base camp" where we enjoyed tea and damper. Then the crew painted their faces to perform some of their traditional dances for us at a smoking ceremony.The paint they used was stained onto a block using ochres and clay. Their paint designs and dance styles are passed down to them from their fathers.
They first performed the smoking ceremony, setting afire leaves from only the ironwood tree and then blessing each traveller to wish them a safe journey. They performed the shark, buffalo and battleship dances, which represented the family dances of several of the crew members.
Our tour guide, John, took us on a nature walk around a billabong before our picnic lunch.

Our next stop was the mission, St. Therese's Catholic Church.The alter was decorated by local aboriginal artists.
Julie and I at base camp with a decorative totem.

Upon returning to the mainland, we took a taxi to the Darwin Festival grounds at the Botanical Gardens. We asked to be dropped off at the Star Shell, an amphitheater-style stage set up for performances every evening. The cab driver must not know much about the festival, because he tried to drop us off at the Shell gas station! *sigh* We stayed there for dinner, yummy curry from Hunaman, and some entertainment - Aboriginal dance troupes and the Dilly All Stars reggae/punk/ska band.
The Star Shell at the Darwin Festival.The White Cockatoo Dance Troupe and legendary didgeridoo player, Darryl.

The Darwin Arts Festival featured a night-time showing of aboriginal art.

For more information about Tiwi Islands and Top End Tourism, check out this site: http://www.travelnt.com/en/explore/darwin/region/tiwi-islands.htm.

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