Tag Archives: aboriginal

A day with the Jarlmadangah mob

This week I had the pleasure of visiting the Jarlmadangah Burru aboriginal community and spending a day out in their gorgeous Country. I am fascinated and have a deep respect and interest in the indigenous people of this world and had a fantastic time learning about law, culture and history of the two language groups in Jarlmadangah Burru. One of the young fellas, Angus, in training to be a tour guide, even tried to teach me a lot of words in the Nyikina language! Not easy, it is a complicated language to repeat!

In almost every country in the world where white man appeared and stole the land by planting a flag (see Eddie Izzard’s funny ‘do you have a flag?’ skit), the indigenous people suffered terribly. Namibia was and is certainly no exception, the Herero were almost wiped out systematically, San people removed from their land – and they still have apparently the greatest economic disparity in the world. Denmark is no exception. Australia is no exception. Australia has treated the original, the first Australians, absolutely appallingly. Removing them from their Country (after having called Australia uninhabited in the first place to get around any legal problems). Slave labour on stations, murder, rape, massacres etc. Passing a law that says the police will come and take your children. Think about it. Say your government passed a law that meant the police showed up, stole your children, you would never see them again! Introduction of alcohol has also been devastating for aboriginal communities. 50 to 60,000 years of culture, knowledge and law on the verge of extinction. A rich country like Australia and the Original Australians live in 3rd world country conditions. I am quite often ashamed to be white but that’s just me.

Anyway, it is a topic of another long post some day -  it was a pleasure to see a dry (meaning no alcohol) community like Jarlmadanga Burru working so well and I loved the short time I got to spend with Harry the elder and the rest of the guys at the community! It was great fun and a privilege to gain such insight! Wish I could have spend a week with you fellas!  I went with their own tour company, owned by the community – “Purely Unreal” Kimberley Dreamtime Adventure Tours. Great, albeit slightly long name! I highly recommend this tour. If you are in Broome I would say you have to do this, it is that good! You will have a brilliant, fun day with people from the community, do a camel ride (Harry the elder loves his camels!) in the gorgeous Country, see rock art and have a unique experience! I wanted to spend two days out there, unfortunately only the one-day tour was running but if I am lucky I will go again on the two-day tour.

This day was all about the experience, not about photography. But of course, I did shoot a few ‘snapshots’ with the 5D mk II

5D Mark II-090511-IMG_1609 copy

Large boab trees lead the way to the community

5D Mark II-090511-IMG_1594 copy

Boys from the community having fun!

5D Mark II-090511-IMG_1598 copy

Beautiful Jarlmadangah Burru Country!

Their Country is gorgeous, I could shoot for weeks in there. The largest boabs I have ever seen. White gorgeous snappy gum trees, red rock, caves with rock arts. Just confirms what I already knew from Hawk Dreaming – some of the best areas of Australia are fortunately not accessible to the public! We can only hope it stays that way, although if the mining companies have their way, Kimberley will be one big mine soon!

For more images, check out the beautiful gallery at the tour site for Purely Unreal Kimberley Dreamtime Adventure Tours! And next time you are in Broome, this is the tour to do! If you would like to know more about aboriginal culture, law and country, I know some great books, do email me.

In the footsteps of Bill Neidjie and the Bunitj Clan

Imagine sitting in a shelter, a large natural rock cave 30 meters above ground. Look out over the floodplains and you have a timeless uninterrupted panoramic view. No roads, no power lines, no people. Look down and on the rock you sit on are grind holes from thousands of years of grinding paint and food. Turn around and study the rock walls close up. Aboriginal art in several styles from up to 40 to 60 thousand years old grace the walls. No signs, no fences, no people. No sounds. Just you and the power of Hawk Dreaming; country of the Bunitj clan in Kakadu National Park.

Then the sun rises. The world awakens. Sounds of the wildlife of Hawk Dreaming fills your ears. I feel almost embarrassed to mix in the loud shutter sound from my camera. Sounds like a gun in this natural soundscape. There is nothing to distract you; nothing to remind you that the year is 2008. It might as well be 10,000 years ago and you really expect a family from the Bunitj clan to be there as you sit in their home and their shelter and watch the sun rise.

080920-IMG_7913

I have blogged about Big Bill Neidjie and Hawk Dreaming before and first visited this magical place in 2007. I wanted to return this year and further explore and photograph this area as I cannot image a more special and powerful sacred place in all of Australia. Nowhere else will you find a place with amazing floodplain landscapes and one of the highest concentrations of aboriginal art sites in Australia. Certainly no place with access to as there are probably more places like this in Arnhem Land but they are totally off-limits. Hawk Dreaming has it all.

I hired a private charter for 3 days (from now on this is the only way I’ll go on tours!) from the only company allowed to bring people into Hawk Dreaming – the super good Aussie Adventures. Les Thorne – known as “the white aboriginal” to his friends for his deep love and knowledge of aboriginal culture and history – was my brilliant guide and teacher. My aim was to shoot landscapes at Hawk Dreaming and see and learn as much as I could about the aboriginal art and history. I am extremely fascinated by and feel connected to aboriginal culture though I only know just a tiny bit about the incredible 60,000 years of history.

The 3 days were absolute magic and spectacular. With my own guide, teacher, mate and 4WD I got all the landscapes I wanted with 2 sunrises and 2 sunsets at Hawk Dreaming. I got to see the roughly 15-20 art sites that we were allowed to go to and Les kindly shared his deep knowledge. A personal highlight for me was sitting in Bill Neidjie’s cave where he lived from 1975 when the land was finally given back to the Bunitj people – Bill played a huge part in this – almost up to his death in 2002. In Bill’s cave you will see rock art and that is 10,20,30 thousands years old – and rock art that is perhaps 20 years old! Bill’s children and grandchildren would paint rock art and paint things they learned in school in the Oenpelli community such as the British alphabet and an image of Sydney Harbour Bridge! A strong and powerful place; an experience burned in my memory forever.

Adding to the magic; I was actually sort of on assignment. Every commercial photo from Hawk Dreaming has to be approved by Jonathon Neidjie, Bill’s son and the current custodian of Hawk Dreaming. Of course no art shots can be sold; not that I would ever do that anyway – that is not my art to sell! Les got me in touch with Dwane Baker, manager from the Djabulukgu Association, at the Bowali Visitor Center in Kakadu. Dwane had Jonathon on the phone and I showed a few of my shots from Hawk Dreaming last year (fortunate I had these in my bag). Dwane seemed to really like them and quickly asked if I would supply them with copies of the landscape files I shot and also help shoot and document the art sites? If so I could shoot and sell all the landscapes I wanted. They really wanted some landscape shots from Hawk Dreaming and also the art documented and I was more than happy to agree; I get my landscapes and I help Dwane, Jonathan Neidjie and Hawk Dreaming. Making a small contribution that way is an honour. Thanks to Dwane and Jonathon for all the help and setting up an agreement so smoothly and quickly in 15 minutes, something that I know from Les can usually take a long time. Very much appreciated, I know I was very very lucky and fortunate. Must be my amazing photography skills and country boy charm 😀

So I was on a mission and shot photos from dawn till dusk. Landscapes and art sites, rock climbed with tripod etc. to get pristine shots of the art sites for Dwane and Jonathan. I had a fantastic time; absolutely loved it! I have enough photos (the two featured here are quick and dirty previews) and stories from Hawk Dreaming to last a year so stay tuned on this blog.

I’ll end with my ongoing relationship with mosquitoes. Me and Mossies. We go way back. I donated quite a few liters of blood to the mossie community in the Kimberleys and continued my contribution in Hawk Dreaming to the fantazillion of mossies that call the East Alligator river (brilliant name you white folks; there are no alligators in Australia!) at Hawk Dreaming home. Standing by the river at dawn ready for sunrise and a wall, an armada of mossies attack me and Les. I empty a full can of toxic and highly flammable but effective Bushman mossie repellant on my body and clothes. Had I still been smoking and lit a ciggy I would have exploded, I was that saturated in chemicals. The repellant helps some. Little bit cheeky them mossies though. Climb under my shirt and get fresh blood! Les escapes to the Landcruiser leaving my blood as the only food source. So as you watch this sunrise shot from Sunday morning; know that I payed for it in blood!

Hawk Dreaming Sunrise 21-sep-08

Hawk Dreaming. home of the Bunitj clan.
I will return.
Feels little bit like your country is now a part of me!

 

Bill Neidjie

Rock stays, Earth stays.
I die and put my bones in cave or earth.
Soon my bones become earth, all the same.
My spirit has gone back to my country, my mother.
This story is important.
It won’t change, it is law.
It is like this earth, it won’t move.
Ground and rock, he can’t move.
Cave, he never move.
No-one can shift that cave, because it dream.
It story.
It law.
This law, this country,this people,
no matter what people,
red, yellow, black or white,
the blood is the same.
Lingo little bit different,
but no matter.

Country, you in other place.
But the same feeling.
Blood, bone, all the same.
This story,
this is true story.
My people
all dead.
We only got few left.
That’s all, not many.
We getting too old.
Young people.
I don’t know if they can hang onto this story.
But, now you know this story,
and you’ll be coming to earth.
You’ll be part of earth when you die.
You responsible now.
You got to go with us.
To earth.
Might be you can hang on.
Hang on to this story.
To this earth.
You got children,
grandson.
Might be your grandson will get this story,
keep going,
hang on like I done.

– Bill Neidjie

Crocs in the main street of Darwin! Sun drops into Timor Sea!

Food! At Mindil Beach MarketThe Mindil Beach Market is in every Darwin tourist brochure so you might think it’s overrated and over packed with tourists. But it really is good fun and in a way it’s what Darwin is all about in one little (not so little; about 190 stalls) market. It’s a big multi cultural melting pot of tourists and laid-back locals enjoying the atmosphere, checking out the many food and craft stalls, grooving to the bands, artists and well downright crazy performers performing – and everyone worshipping the sun drop straight into the Timor sea while eating $8 meals cooked by chefs like my mate on the right (yeah that’s right! I shot a photo of a non-landscape subject!). Everyone is friendly and determined to have a great time and the people are super entertaining. Tropical lifestyle at it’s best!

Mindil Beach Market I still felt tired and lazy and couldn’t be bothered walking the 4 kilometres to the beach in the tropical heat…so I hailed a taxi. Taxi driver was a character all right; sees my big camera backpack with tripod and asks “Off to shoot the sunset? You’re a photographer mate? Professional?”. “Yeah. Well semi-pro” I say. He asks “I got a digital camera too, how big is your memory card? I think mine can shoot like a thousand photos!”. “Hehehe, well mate” I say “I have about 40 gigs of CF cards, 320 gigs of external HDs, 1 laptop and blank DVDs. I don’t really plan on running out of memory!”. He shifts conversation to food and says “So much good food at the market, you like Indian food?”. “Yes I do” I say. “It’s SPIIIIICYYYYY” he then shouts like Jim Carrey in The Mask. Like I said, wildly entertaining people at the market and also driving you to the market!

Mindil Beach Market It’s hard to capture the atmosphere of the market in a photo. I’ve included a few quick and dirty edits from Lightroom with blown highlights, halos and everything! But they do sort of show you the blur of people walking back and forth between the stalls surrounded by palm trees and tropical sunset light. To see the sunset itself – read on.

Crocs on Main Street of Darwin!

Just had to throw in that headline. Since Crocosaurus Cove opened in the middle of Darwin a few months ago this headline has been featured everywhere! Crocosaurus Cove is a huge new croc zoo right on Mitchell Street. It is worth a visit, it’s really well made with some beautiful crocs in huge pools that feature super design. Like in some fish aquariums you can walk underneath the pools and see the crocs from all angles. Impressive, haven’t seen that before. Mitchell street is also backpacker hell with all the big backpacker hostels and therefore also all the big pubs. I reckon they should let the crocs out at night, cull the drunken backpacker population a bit!

Sun drops into Timor Sea! – and Australia and GND filters

Sunset at Mindil Beach in DarwinI don’t really use a lot of filters. I sometimes use a neutral density filter in Copenhagen to cut light for longer exposures. The ND filter you can just stick on and forget so it’s easy to use. Doesn’t get in my way. I rarely use a graduated neutral density (GND) filter in Copenhagen as the soft pastel light means I can manage without it and I find GND filters annoying to use. I’m not really that keen on tripods either. Or cameras for that matter. That’s why I loved the 617 viewfinder so much. I want as transparent a creative process as possible concentrating on composition and shooting many angles and hate anything that gets in the way. I would love to just swap one eye for a 50 megapixel 14-bit sensor with 2:1 aspect ratio and shoot by blinking!

In Australia the light and colours can be so intense even after sunset that a GND filter really is needed. A GND filter has a gradual cutoff meaning half the filter cuts exposure by for instance 2 stops while the rest of it is transparent. Means you can even out the light between the sky and the beach or sea for example. I still find GND filters a right bloody pain in the behind to use. Can’t see what’s going on, have to keep adjusting every time I change composition. But it means you can capture Mindil Beach dusk shots like the one above and this one (again, just quick exports from Lightroom) 

080831-IMG_6542-2

Aboriginal art

I am very fascinated by aboriginal culture and have by now seen a lot of rock art and paintings all over Australia. Darwin has what I consider the best artists and the best art galleries. The traditional old x-ray style of Arnhem Land in Kakadu National Park here in the Northern Territory, the Oenpelli region, is my favourite style; the style most people know are probably the new dot-painting style. There are several large and gorgeous aboriginal art galleries in Darwin, the Aboriginal Fine Arts Gallery is outstanding and features some of the best Arnhem Land artists. Djawida Nadjongorle is one of the famous Arnhem artist and his outstanding work can be seen here. If I had $6500 to spare the huge Mimi Spirits Hunting painting was coming home with me!

I’ve gone bush!

Finally; now the real work can begin; the real photography! I am fully normalised, sleep fine again and Wednesday sees me on a 14 day outback trip through the magnificient Kimberleys. I have very high expectations; hope to get some fantastic outback landscapes to add to my portfolio. I won’t be online for a while so see ya on the other side! I’ve gone bush!

Hawk Dreaming and Big Bill Neidjie

I have been preparing this story for some time. It’s a story of great importance to me. It’s a story of great meaning to me. It’s the story of one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited and the story of an amazing person. Maybe that’s why it has taken me forever to write this. I’m not much of a writer anyway so I have been staring at the blank screen many times without ever typing a single word on this story. I never seemed to get started, couldn’t find the perfect words and afraid to use my own ordinary words for this extraordinary story.

Well I suppose I will never pen the perfect words nor shoot the perfect picture. All I have are my words; my pictures. So here goes. The story of the Hawk Dreaming area in Kakadu National Park and of indigenous Australian Big Bill Neidjie, Gagudju Man.

Hawk Dreaming in Kakadu National Park

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Hawk Dreaming Wetland at Sunset Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Hawk Dreaming is a small closed off  area inside Kakadu National Park in Australia and no other landscape and place has had the impact Hawk Dreaming has had on me. This sacred place is truly magical for me and I was lucky enough to get to experience it on my own tour – just me and the great Andy from Aussie Adventures. That really allowed me to take it all in without the distractions of other people – just the way I like it, just me and the landscape.

Hawk Dreaming map Hawk Dreaming is a closed off area and there’s only one way to visit – on tour with Aussie Adventures, the only company allowed to go into Hawk Dreaming. I’ve already written about how I got my very own tour of Hawk Dreaming in August 2007, click here to read it. Perhaps you have visited Ubirr Rock in Kakadu National Park? If you stand on top of Ubirr Rock and look North you are looking at Hawk Dreaming! Click the map on the right to see large size, click here for Google maps link.

My Hawk Dreaming

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Hawk Dreaming & East Alligator River
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I spend 3 days in this magical sacred land and I tried to savour every single second and take it all in – and shoot heaps of photos at the same time. What makes Hawk Dreaming so special is that it’s just you and the timeless landscape. It’s the complete opposite of Ubirr Rock. Ubirr is very impressive landscape and great aboriginal art, but it’s loaded with tourists, there are paved roads, the art is fenced off meaning you can’t get close etc. All of this is of course necessary to preserve and protect the art and the land but it does take away from the experience with all those people, signs, paths, roads, fences etc. I am constantly reminded of reality and can’t really connect to the landscape the way I would like. It is ‘touched’ landscape.

Hawk Dreaming is almost completely untouched. When you drive around Hawk Dreaming, when you visit the caves and see the art everything is pristine and untouched. No people, no paved roads, no signs, no fences. You are right there and there’s no filter between you and 60,000 years of history! It’s a humbling and spectacular experience. Hawk Dreaming truly is the crown jewel of Kakadu National Park. The following panorama is a wide view over Hawk Dreaming, the East Alligator river and Cannon rock. Ok, there is a small path made by the Aussie Adventure 4wds but besides that everything is completely timeless, untouched and authentic landscape. For me it’s like travelling back in time to thousands of years ago. The smoke in the air is from bush fires but even that is authentic. No bloody powerlines or paved roads ruining my view here:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

View from Cave in Hawk Dreaming Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

As you can see Hawk Dreaming is also one of the places in Kakadu where you get more open savannah country (naturally there are a lot of trees in Kakadu) and this allows for longer open views of the landscape and the sunset as well. This particular Hawk Dreaming sunset is actually looking due South straight at Ubirr Rock:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Pandanus Palm & Termite Mounds
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

No other place, no other landscape has ever had that great an impact on me. Yes I love Uluru and Kata Tjuta in the Red Centre very much but there are too many people and taken as a whole experience I would say that Hawk Dreaming has had the most impact on me on my 6 trips (so far) to Australia . This is partly because Hawk Dreaming is just magical and carries at least 25,000 years of history and partly because I had the whole place to myself so I could really take in the place and forget about the outside world. Like I told Michael and Alicia at the bush camp, all I needed was an internet connection and I could easily live and work there for the entire dry season!

Aboriginal art in Hawk Dreaming

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The cave I showed you the view from is just one of the many caves in Hawk Dreaming with  aboriginal rock art. As I mentioned before, Hawk Dreaming is very special in that you get to climb the rocks to get to the caves and then study the art right up close and personal. The shot on the right is from the same cave as the panorama view above, the cave wall and art is a few meters behind me. The shot clearly shows you no fences, no signs, no people so you can really study the art up close and discover how very impressive it actually is.

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The X-ray art (like the big Barramundi fish where you can see the bones etc) is very detailed and have beautiful drawn fine lines (and on rock mind you, not smooth paper). At Hawk Dreaming I had time – and the whole place to myself! – so I could really take it in and let the place and the art sink in. It does truly boggle the mind to sit there and think that people have lived here for at least 25,000 years. The pigments in the paintings have been dated by scientist to be at least 18,000 years old. It saddens me deeply to think how fast Europeans with no understanding of these people wiped out 65,000 years of indigenous history of living of the land and protecting the land. The first humans arrived in Australia as long as 65,000 years ago and aboriginals have lived in Kakadu for at least 25,000 years. That’s 250 centuries. Took less than 1 century for that to be completely changed after Captain Cook and his so-called ‘discovery’ of a country where humans had already lived for tens of thousands of years. Europeans arriving in Australia was inevitable but at least we could have acknowledged the indigenous people of Australia and tried to co-exist instead of declaring it Terra Nullis – uninhabited, which translated to “up for grabs!”. Which brings me to a very important part of the Hawk Dreaming story, a very important person.

Big Bill Neidjie, Gagudju Man

Big Bill is a legend and unique among the Aboriginal people for many reasons – and he grew up in Hawk Dreaming! Here’s Big Bill, as photographed by Australian photographer Mark Lang, click to see large.

Bill Neidjie

Big Bill Neidjie at Hawk Dreaming
Copyright Mark Lang

A big thank you to Australian Photographer Mark Lang for sending me this striking photo of Big Bill and letting me use it on this blog. Please check out Mark’s beautiful photography – some of it from Hawk Dreaming – at www.marklangscapes.com. Mark has spent 3 years with Big Bill at Hawk Dreaming and is currently working on a book. Mark’s gorgeous shots from Kakadu and Hawk Dreaming are also featured in the Gagudju Man book about Big Bill, more about that later.

Bill Neidjie was one of the driving forces behind creating the Kakadu National Park in order to protect and manage his land for years to come making sure that indigenous Australians govern the national park. Big Bill has been awarded the Order of Australia for his services to conservation. Bill himself returned to live in Hawk Dreaming area in 1979 and is buried at Hawk Dreaming – and one of the caves in Hawk Dreaming has a drawing of Bill’s hand as a child. Jonathan Nadji, Bill’s son now lives in Hawk Dreaming and carries on Bill’s work of protecting the sacred land. Big Bill is also a legend for arranging and attending his own wake! You can read a bit more here on wikipedia and there’s a great article about him here including the wake story – but you should really let Bill tell it himself by buying his book!

Gagudju Man book cover Big Bill felt that something should be written down about the way aborigine used to live, the history should be documented for generations to come so the book Kakadu Man was born. It was re-issued last year as “Gagudju Man” and you can find it on bookshops in Australia or order it online here. It is incredibly fascinating to read Bill’s stories about growing up in Kakadu, aboriginal law, how the white man changed their life and the book also features gorgeous photos from Mark Lang – see the cover photo on the right. It is a fantastic book and must buy if you have the slightest interest in this or have visited Kakadu National Park!

Photographing Hawk Dreaming

I shot hundreds of shots during my short stay at Hawk Dreaming trying to take it all especially in the very short golden hour of the tropical Northern Territory. The sun light is unbelievably bright during the day and you only have a very short time of soft warm light and then it’s pitch black – so work fast! I feel I got some good shots at Hawk Dreaming but I could spend months here shooting, I definitely only scratched the surface during my 3 days there and hope to return and shoot some more.

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Cannon Rock at Sunset
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Hawk Dreaming Savannah landscape
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

More shots from Hawk Dreaming in my Kakadu Gallery.

Epilogue

If you made it this far despite my feeble writing skills then I’m very impressed! Hopefully I was able to tell you this story and convey how special Hawk Dreaming is without boring you to tears or you falling asleep on the keyboard. There really is so much more to tell but this post is long enough already and I’m not a good enough writer to truly express how I feel about Hawk Dreaming anyway. I’ll end by saying that if you are in the Northern Territory then you really should go to Hawk Dreaming! It will stay with you forever!

Sorry

Australian Aboriginal Flag

This blog is about my photography but occasionally I will stray off-topic. Today is one of those days.

Today (Wednesday the 13th of Feb) is an important day, a landmark in the dark history of Australia. Today the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered a broad national apology to all Aborigines and the Stolen Generation for the laws and policies that during the past 200 years have inflicted so much grief and pain on the Australian Aboriginals, the oldest living cultures on the planet.

The apology is important because it acknowledges that this actually happened (some people have questioned the Stolen Generation like some people question Holocaust) and it’s a long needed step towards making amends, moving on and making life better for the indigenous people. It’s just a small step, aboriginal culture is practically on the edge on being wiped out and they need so much more help. After declaring the entire country “Terra Nullis” – uninhabited – the first colony after the “discovery” (not so much, more like an invasion!) had an absolutely devastating effect on the aboriginals. The crimes against these people are impossible to fathom.

I am deeply interested in and feel connected to keepers-of-the-land cultures like the native Americans and the Australian Aborigines and I am part of western civilisation and feel responsible for the past actions of our culture. I am sorry.

Read more about this and watch the speech at News.com.au.