Gay Globe Trekker

Destination: Down Under—Aboriginal Art

Follow my Priscilla-esque journey Down Under as I reveal each week one of 21 reasons for wearing my love for Australia on my sleeve (literally, tattooed there).

#14 Because I conquered my worry about purchasing Aboriginal art at Darwin’s Maningrida Arts & Culture gallery.

Ever since my impulse purchase of a flaming fuchsia silk Mandarin jacket at Shanghai Tang in Hong Kong—an outfit that occasionally makes an appearance at a Halloween dinner party—I’ve cautioned myself about purchasing native fashion and crafts.  When traveling those items might look good in context, but back home, not so much.  So even though I do love Australia—and Aboriginal art adorns everything from expensive canvases on gallery walls to tacky key chains in airport kiosk—I’ve generally avoided browsing.

But on my recent trip Down Under to Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory, and gateway to much of the outback Aborigine settlements, I decided to step my toe into the local artistic waters.  The Maningrida Arts & Culture gallery put me right at ease with helpful staff that explained to me the origin of the art as well as background on the artists.  I chose a textile made by Helen Lanyinwanga whose work has been displayed in the Museum of Victoria and the National Gallery of Australia.  Her work is supported by the Babbarra Women’s Centre which provides employment and training opportunities through the establishment of small business enterprises.

Back in NYC, I haven’t quite decided how to put the hand painted lino-tiled fabric to use.  But every time I look at it, I’m transported to the Outback, knowing that it not only looks good, but the purchase is helping do good Down Under.

photo by Tourism NT

Like one of my all-time favorite films Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the ultimate destination on my last trip Down Under was Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the country’s “Red Centre.” Granted, I didn’t take a bus or wear a silver lamé dress (damn), but I did sing lots of disco songs and chose a circuitous route. I found the majesty of Uluru spellbinding—one of those places that more than lives up to expectations. No wonder it’s a finalist to be one of the New7Wonders of Nature, an online poll that will announce winners on 11.11.11. Join me in voting for Uluru/Ayers Rock, by visiting Who knows, maybe I’ll end up adding Uluru to my sleeve.

photo by Jamie Beck; tattoo by Friday Jones


Jon Paul Buchmeyer for

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