Aboriginal Art, Election, Botany Bay, Save Tony the Tiger etc

September 12, 2010


Mr Donegan, Papa Tjukurpa and Pukara, synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 180 x 200cm. Image courtesy of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.


ABORIGINAL ART: Last blog I referred to Aboriginal art and how the international art world has been so interested. Recently Mr. Donegan, as he likes to be referred to, won the annual Telstra Award, now showing in Darwin, N.T. The winning painting is dazzling – I love the colour, composition and energy – not bad for a virtually unknown 70 year old. Aboriginal art constantly surprises, and I feel so privileged to have had an association with many of the artists over the years, and made many friends. Many Aboriginal paintings from the desert are actual maps of the artist’s country, and tell ancestral and creation stories – in this case, “the painting is about dingo dreaming (Papa Tjukurpa), a rockhole and a father and a son”. View 27th NATSIAA online gallery. 


I love these original lithographs by John Gould. The Antique Print Room (in Sydney) has an exhibition of over100 works from the The Birds and Mammals of Australia, published 1848-69.  They can be viewed on www.antiqueprintroom.com . Where I live on the outskirts of Sydney there are many kookaburras (pictured). 



  POLITICS: I am sorry to be parochial talking about our Australian election, but I think there are probably international parallels.  After an abysmal and depressing election campaign, aimed at bribing and not frightening swinging voters in marginal seats many of whom are uninterested in politics, and are economic illiterates (like me), our “hung” parliament has finally been resolved, with the government only just returned. This is with the support of a few Independents who may be crucified by their rather conservative electorates. It is extraordinary that perhaps the only government in the Western world that did not go into recession with the GFC, could not sell this achievement – perhaps we survived it so well, the public did not really understand the dangers that we avoided. Interestingly, with the negotiations and trading required to form a minority government, many issues not raised in the election got aired (and may be debated when parliament resumes)– including neglect of rural areas, indigenous employment, the status of same-sex relationships, tax reform, reform of parliament, Afghanistan etc. The election result was really more about people NOT voting for either side – many people are so sick of their spin, fear mongering, lack of leadership and vision,  the influence of focus groups and polls, the intervention of the media, and the adversarial nature of a two-party system. The Greens benefited from the dissatisfaction, and will next year hold the balance of power in the Senate, and the Government has had to form an agreement with them. The Government was too frightened to have bold policies on climate change (and the Opposition are virtually in denial), and we may now, ironically, see a much more positive attitude to actually formulating a much overdue strategy. It is fascinating how the issue of climate change has undone several of our leaders. Unfortunately, there are now quite a few new divas and loose cannons that are in a position to make stable government extremely difficult. Luckily our PM, Julia Gillard, is a very good negotiator, but it could all easily end in tears! 


Lake George by Joseph Lycett 1825


CONFESSION:  Yes I collect colonial prints, and especially love Joseph Lycett.  I recently went to Canberra and have always looked forward to driving along side Lake George, which has always mysteriously filled and emptied. I confess Iwas horrified to see wind farm turbines on the horizon, and was equally surprised by my reaction, as I am of course an ardent supporter of alternative energies. The “visual pollution” of this particularly scenic view made me think of the compromises ahead, and at what price sustainability? I was going to Canberra for the opening of the most magnificent exhibition LIFE, DEATH & MAGIC , 2000 Years of Southeast Asian Ancestral Art.  Drawn from major collections around the world by the National Gallery of Australia ,  these items will probably never be assembled together again. 


Botany Bay 2010 by Micky Allan and Steenus von Steensen


BOTANY BAY: In 2008 I curated an exhibition Lines in the Sand, Botany Bay Stories from 1770 and 1788, which examined our foundational narratives and the first European/Aboriginal encounters from Captain Cook’s visit, and the First Fleet. The exhibition contained both colonial material and contemporary art works, and I emphasised the overlooked Aboriginal perspective on these events. Recently I co-curated Shifting Sands, Botany Bay Today, also at the Hazelhurst Regional Gallery  in south Sydney and currently on show, and a group of very interesting and diverse artists were asked to respond to the social, cultural and environmental history and development of Botany Bay. It reminded me of the important role of artists – as interpreters and visionaries. For more information about the exhibition and the viewing the online catalogue ( and my Introduction) visit Shifting Sands, Botany Bay Today


Free Tony the Tiger!


SAVE TONY THE TIGER: I was emailed by John Martin who has drawn my attention to the campaign to release Tony the Tiger in Louisiana, who has been kept in a cage at the Tiger Truck Stop as a gimmick for all his life (9 years). Despite repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act and the inherent cruelty, there has been no action by the authorities, and I think we should all sign the petition – and spread the word – to ensure the permit to allow Tony to remain imprisoned is not renewed again by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.  I think we should also directly contact the Department, but of course you will make up your own mind, see: Petition.  

Other Relevant Sites: 






BRISBANE WRITERS FESTIVAL:  Last week I attended this Festival, now in its 51st year. Apart from sessions on my own, I was part of a Call of the Wild panel with 3 very intrepid Australian women writers who had had adventures in Africa and life changing experiences with animals. Annette Henderson (Wild spirit published by William Heinemann), Sally Henderson (Ivory Moon published by Pan Macmillan) and Tammie Matson (Elephant Dance published by Pan Macmillan) are all committed conservationists and Dr. Matson, for example, has been studying elephant/human conflict in Africa and Assam. With their shrinking and contested habitats, wild elephants are causing problems for villagers. She is staging a fundraising exhibition in Sydney in early October of beautiful elephant drawings – see http://animalworks.com.au/drawings-slideshow , and for exhibition details contact nafisa.naomi@mac.com .  I haven’t been to Africa for nearly 40 years and their books and presentations made me even more enthusiastic to go back. I very much enjoyed attending the festival , and I was asked some very interesting questions, particularly from enthusiastic children. For example, “would you have done anything differently with Christian?” An unkind friend later commented “you could have worn different clothes”!   


12 Responses to “Aboriginal Art, Election, Botany Bay, Save Tony the Tiger etc”

  1. karoline Says:

    Very interesting blog

  2. I like your blog,i hope you continue to inspire more artist.Goodluck.

  3. Thank you again Mr. Bourke, John Martin, and everyone who is supporting Tony by signing his petition and networking his story. Tony’s petition now has 4,575 signatures towards its goal of 10,000. We hope Tony will too know the “freedom” Christian was given, and although Tony can never be released into the wild, accredited big cat sanctuaries stand ready to provide him with the care, home and respect he deserves. More information about Tony can be found at the following links:

    Tony’s Facebook Page:

    Big Cat Rescue’s (Tampa FL) Free Tony Page:

    Free Tony The Tiger On WordPress:

    Follow Tony On Twitter:

    Tony On Youtube:

    Sign Tony’s Petition:

    Tony On Weebly:

  4. Heulwen Says:

    It was a wonderful gesture of John Martin to send the video..I’m covered in goose pimples now! That particular video on youtube is my favourite too..I think the song too really ‘describes’ it all, a mixture of intense happiness and saddness that everyone watching it cannot help but feel. So we watch it over and over because it pulls on some strings inside, wonderful.

  5. Heulwen Says:

    Thank you so much John Martin for that, we all know how difficult it was for Ace and John to have to part with him, I often watch the videos I purchased of Christian….here come more tears again.
    Dear Ace, you do have an eye for lovely paintings, Joseph Lycett’s 1825 Lake George is so lovely with a hint of delicate softness about it, the pastel colours so relaxing and easy on the eye. I also like the birds (kookaburras) John Gould, what a fascinating name for them, it must have a meaning. I had an oblong plate with similar print which I sold on ebay for pennies trying to declutter, I’m wondering how much it was really worth now.
    I too, signed the petition to release Tony the Tiger and added to it. cross fingers he will soon be set free away from the vehicle fumes, and although he sees many things from his cage, only he knows the lonliness that he’s endured for so long, but can do nothing about it without our help. such a lovely animal.

  6. John Martin Says:

    Hi Ace, this is the video clip that I was referring to that someone made in July 2008 as a tribute to you, Christian, and John Rendall on you tube. This makes me cry every time I see it. You may have seen it but just in case you have not, here is the link. It is just beautiful 🙂

  7. John Martin Says:

    Thank you Ace for posting ‘SAVE TONY THE TIGER’ on your blog. Our signatures on Tony’s petition went from 3,973 just last night to 4,097 signatures because of you. I watched a you tube clip tonight of you and Mr. Rendall reuniting with Christian and I cried, AGAIN. Thank you so much!


    John Martin

  8. Thank you for your post about Tony the Truck Stop Tiger, and I’d also like to thank John Martin for writing to you about Tony. Tony’s situation is truly unbelievable. He has been used as a roadside attraction all of his 10 years. Accredited big cat sanctuaries are willing to take Tony and give him the home, life, care and respect he deserves. Buying Tony is not an option; it is illegal to buy, sell, or import such animals as tigers in the state of Louisiana. http://www.bornfreeusa.org/b4a2_exotic_animals_state.php?s=la and as you said these actions would only perpetuate the exotic wild animal trade. More about Tony at: http://freetonythetiger.wordpress.com/tonys-story/

  9. Scott Says:

    Well done yet again Ace. I’ve seen the clothes and found them to be vintage. I myself would wear them now. Hope you know I’m not kidding.

    The Tony The Tiger story is disgusting. It makes me tired of this reality on a whole new level. The world is asleep and full of sheep. Is it really a wonder if soul they’ll keep. Apologies … was feeling creative and it rhymed.

    Good call on the turbines. Not so keen on them myself, but The Military Industrial Complex/World Government isn’t about to allow abundant/free energy, so turbines we get.

    What entertainment the Australian election was. Gillard is almost as scary as Obama. And to think, there just the pawns. Can only imagine what the men behind the curtain are like. Yikes!

    Think I should squeeze a positive in. That photo of the elephants on Tammie Matson’s book is a heart warmer.



  10. marijane swanson Says:

    Hello Ace~

    Great blog!

    Thank you for posting the Aboriginal Art! It’s incredible…especially enjoyed the virtual gallery.

    Several years ago I bought the catalogue of Lines in the Sand-Botany Bay Stories.
    Love the kaleidoscope of Australian art and cultures over the centuries…well done! Two of my
    favorites ~ Charles Gore’s 1788 NSWales watercolor & then also love Michael Riley’s photos.
    A lovely presentation!

    About Tony the Tiger:
    It is sickening to know that a tiger is being kept confined in a cage, at a truck stop in Louisiana.
    It is difficult enough to have them confined in zoos. My letter campaign will begin today to free Tony!
    I live in southern California. It’s difficult to believe there is a place in America where this kind of cruelty to animals exists. If nothing else, Tony can be let free & cared for at the open Wild Animal Park in San Diego California. It is a more natural enviornment than a regular zoo…
    Thank you for your being an ambassador for animals!

    I admire your work in the art world and with your speaking up to enlighten the world on
    behalf of our beloved animals. You are my hero!
    Best wishes~ marijane

    • acebourke Says:

      Isn’t Aboriginal art marvellous? Glad you enjoyed the Lines in the Sand catalogue- I was especially happy with it – it all worked as one big installation. Yes the Charles Gore watercolour was a surprise to many – it is not well known. So let’s be determined to save Tony the Tiger. I did wonder where he would go – so is the Wild Animal Park at San Diego likely? It would be good to know if they would have him, and if there are other alternatives. I also wondered if he could be purchased – but buying exotic animals does encourage the trafficking in these animals, so I’m not recommending this….just thinking out loud. Thankyou so much for your interest in many of the things that I too find important. best wishes ACE

  11. Michelle Johnson Says:

    Hello Ace, I wanted to thank you for sharing another wonderful blog with us.

    I also wanted to thank you for your support with the Free The Tony the Tiger campaign. Many of us have devoted years to freeing this beautiful creature from it’s wretched surroundings and hopefully soon we can get Tony to a sanctuary, with fresh air and green grass beneath his paws, so he can live out his remaining years in peace.

    One last thing, I have posted a link below to a video that I believe you would really enjoy. It showcases George Adamson and his many beloved lions through the years. I believe the video was made by someone who did not speak English, so there are a few spelling errors. There’s a beautiful song that accompanies the video.

    Take care and God Bless,


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