Connect the dots: art in the Tiwi Islands, Northern Territory, Australia

Bathurst Island Lodge.
 Photo: Belinda Jackson

Crocodiles and canvas make for a potent mix in the Tiwi Islands.

  
 

The speed boat tears down the broad
brown river, and I feel 1000 non-human eyes watching us from the
primordial mangrove-lined banks.

   

“Can you smell the flying fox?”
asks Kathy. It’s the first time I’ve been asked the question, and it
distracts me from the earlier statement that a sneaky, opportunistic
little croc lurks around the boat ramp where we boarded.

  
 

Thick and shining, the river cuts
deep into Bathurst Island. Together with its much larger neighbour,
Melville Island, and nine little uninhabited islands to the south, they
make up the Tiwi Islands 15-minute flight or 2 1/2-hour cruise north of
Darwin. Once, they were part of the landbridge that linked us to the
super-continent, Gondwanaland. Now, they’re broken and fragmented: a
giant’s lonely, lovely footprint in the Timor Sea.

   

Melville Island airport. 
Photo: Belinda Jackson

The Tiwis are but a blip on the
tourism radar. Until now, barramundi hunters and football selectors have
been pretty hushhush about their fertile hunting grounds, but a new
culture tour has lured our party of five onto the islands. We fly over
from Darwin in a Cessna 402C: the plane is so small that we all get a
window seat, and you can count the number of seats on two hands, pilot
included.

  
 

From above, the land is low, flat
and surprisingly large; Melville is our largest island after Tasmania.
The airport, however, is not large. But the first thing I see is a sign
that the Essendon Football Club proudly supports the Tiwi Bombers. It’s
unsurprising, given Kathy’s brother, Michael Long, is a Bombers’ legend,
while her son, Cyril Rioli, is a Hawthorn midfielder.

  
 

The second most striking feature of
the airport is the small concrete block that is the main building.
Actually, it’s the only building. It is painted in wildly beautiful
yellow, black and red Indigenous designs that sets the tone for the next
few days: the Tiwi art scene is strong and all pervasive. The whole
building is

about the size of a small public
loo. No ticket collectors, no customs officials, no taxi stand. Just the
humidity and silence, broken only by the arrival of our minibus and the
departure of our plane. Welcome!

  
 

Art is everywhere, on the public
building walls and in the burial grounds, where carved ironwood totems
hold the spirits of those who have died. 

Traditional art is even worn in
the supermarket, where the older Tiwi women sport rainbow-bright prints
designed and woven by the town’s “spiderwomen”, a dwindling number of
weavers and printers who now find themselves head-tohead with cheap
Chinese imports.

   

Woodcarver and artist Mario Munkara,
Tiwi Designs.
 Photo: Belinda Jackson

A quick drive through the town of
Wurrumiyanga (called Nguiu until 2010) reveals an orderly society.
There’s Meals on Wheels, a small hospital, Asian takeaway, school and
the social club, where all the island gossip is exchanged and the only
public place you can buy a drink. There’s a pool for croc-free swimming,
opened by Olympic swimmer Leisel Jones and her mum, a church and
Ngaruwanajirri, the Keeping House, a “bush cathedral” with a curved
ceiling covered in a glorious riot of the Tiwis’ distinctive,

geometric mulypinyini pwanga (lines and dots).

  
 

This art hub is where disabled
artists meet to sculpt, paint, print and sell their wares: carvings,
batik silk scarves, lino block prints

and paintings using natural ochres.
This morning, a group of men sit outside, carving elegant, long-necked
birds from dense ironwood which they’ll then paint and sell to keep the
place going, essential now its limited funding has been cut.

    

“We started this program 20 years
ago, but we’ve been unfunded the last three years, so I’m now a
volunteer,” says John Naden, a former art teacher who runs The Keeping
House with his wife Joy,

also a dedicated teacher. There’s a
small display room and the art is priced cheaply to keep it turning over
and to keep the artists busy. After all, who wants to be a starving
artist, recognised only in death? The prized artworks are sent out to be
celebrated across Australia and abroad.

  
 

Nearby, the town’s art stalwart,
Tiwi Designs, is now in its fourth decade. When we enter, we’re ushered
past racks of painted canvases and stacks of sculptured birds, past the
silk printing tables and woven baskets, and out the back to a small
fire, which is smoking with green eucalyptus leaves.

  
 

“Obviously, you ladies are from the
mainland. We don’t know what spirits you bring,” explains Vivian
Warlapinni Kerinauia delicately, waving thick smoke over us with a leafy
branch. A group of men and women dance around the smoking fire, telling
of their totems or dreaming group of crocodile, shark, warship, turtle
or buffalo. The men jump and twist, the women are more subtle, elderly
hands graceful and evocative.

   

“Now you have a good spirit,” says Vivian. “It will guide you, give you an open mind.”

   

Artist Alan John Kerinaiua at Tiwi Designs Photo: Belinda Jackson

After we are cleansed by smoke, the
artists return to their tasks. Shy and calm, Alan John Kerinaiua sits
back down by his large canvas and picks up his fine brushes, his plastic
pots the trinity of the Tiwi palette – red, white and yellow ochre
mixed with PVC glue, a fixer for flexibility and longevity.

  
 
The tour’s pace is slow, there is no
dashing in and out. We drink tea and eat hot, fresh damper, graze from
spectacular lunch boxes, chat with the artists and watch Tiwi Designs
manager Steve Anderson and gentle Vivian handprint a

spectacular, nine-metre fall of gold
silk for a Byron Bay client. After lunch, it’s our turn, and Vivian and
I imprint a drop of red cotton with a beautiful print by senior artist
Jock Puautjimi. It’s my souvenir, it’s my new heartthrob.

  
 

There’s plenty to love: Tiwi art is an absolute crowd pleaser, whether you like wood carvings, sculpture, hand-printed fabric,

ochre and acrylic on canvas, or
tunga, delicately woven bark baskets. Pinned up on the walls are photos
of famous admirers of Tiwi style, including Whoopi Goldberg and Boy
George, while the art world’s admirers include the British Museum, which
hangs several of its most celebrated artists, such as Jean Baptiste
Apuatimi, who worked here for many years before she died in 2013.

   

It’s another short plane hop to the
larger Melville Island, and once again, the Tiwis’ inherent artistic
nature greets you at another extremely modest airport.

  
 

Photo: Belinda Jackson

The men’s and women’s loos are

hand-painted in the local style:
ladies with their dilly bags, men with their spears. At Jilamara Arts
& Craft Association in Milikapiti, the happiest man on Melville
Island, Brian Farmer, endures and answers our questions with a massive
smile through his grey beard, felt cowboy hat stuffed firmly on his
head. 

“Every artist tells a story passed on by our forefathers,” he
says. ‘‘Their country, the stars, the universe … You know the stars
guide us when we’re in the dugout canoe. We follow them back to our
campsites. It’s all written there,” says Brian, who also runs a weekly
school program about the dreaming, passing it on to

the local schoolchildren.

   

“If you lose that, you lose your identity,” he says.

  
 

The light, airy gallery is full of
weavings and bark paintings, canvases including one of the Tiwis’ best
known artists, Kitty Kantilla (Kutuwalumi Purawarrumpatu). Each work is
stamped with the artist’s name, their skin and their dance – where they
fit in close-knit society. For every item of artwork sold at the Tiwis’
art centres, the bulk of the money is returned to the artist and the
remainder is put back into the operations of the Tiwi Art Network.

  
 

Over lunch at the nearby Melville Island Fishing Lodge, there are croc jokes a-plenty. A

Johnny Horton fan in Milikapiti has
named a local croc Bismarck, and Bismarck is ‘‘into dog control’’. 

There
are plans to launch a new tour that takes you to the islands’
freshwater pools (where you can definitely swim without crocs) or a spot
of spear fishing (where you’ve got to be ‘‘cautious,’’ says local
master of the understatement, Junior Guy). The big fellas are respected
for their cunning and their sheer power.

  
 

On the journey home, I unwrap my
printed fabric from Tiwi Designs and a card falls into my lap. It is a
stencil of a crocodile. Simple, sparse lines convey his lethal, sinuous
curve. In both nature and danger, there is beauty. 

 

The art is in capturing it.
FIVE OTHER ABORIGINAL ART TOURS
1  ROCK ART Kakadu-born
Sab Lord and his knowledgeable indigenous team take you into Gunbalaya,
Arnhem Land, to view its ancient rock art at Injalak Hill and the
rich Injalak Arts & Crafts centre. Day tours from Darwin cost $270
adults, $195 children, (08) 8948 2200, lords-safaris.com.
2  SOUTHERN WONDER Guests
staying at Longitude 131, overlooking Uluru, can take a rare, exclusive
Ernabella Arts Tour into the APY lands of northern South Australia. The
full-day tour costs $1000 per person, maximum 4 guests, (02) 9918 4355,
longitude131.com.au.
3  GO BUSH NSW’s Kur-ring-gai
Chase National Park has more than 1000 Aboriginal Heritage sites. Visit
them by land and water, with a 2.5 scenic cruise, a Welcome to Country
ceremony and bush-tucker inspired lunch, $199 adults, $149 children,
(02) 9099 4249, sydneyoutback.com.au.
4  GALLERY OF STARS View
magnificent rock art galleries on tiny islands off the Kimberley
coastline on the Kimberley Ultimate tour on the luxury True North
cruise, from $17,995, (08) 91921 829, northstarcruises.com.au.
5  BARK ART Journey
deep into Maningrida, in Arnhem Land, to see woven sculpture, painted
hollow logs and bark paintings. Costs from $789 a person, based on 4
sharing, including flight from Darwin, (08) 8985 3266, artconnections.com.au.

TRIP NOTES
MORE INFORMATION travelnt.com
GETTING AROUND The
three-day Ultimate Tiwi Island Tour runs until 11 September 2015. Costs
from $2425 a person, including SeaLink ferry transfers or flights from
Darwin, scenic flight to Melville Island, accommodation, meals and
non-alcoholic beverages and all tour activities (art workshop with local
artists, walking tour, wilderness adventure cruise, fishing options,
turtle tour, and a museum and art centre tour). A three night/four day
Tiwi Island tour costs from $3225 per person. Day trips to the island
run Thursdays and Fridays until December 1, cost $319, Phone 1300 130
679; see sealinknt.com.au.

VISITING ART CENTRES Jilamara
Arts & Crafts Association is in Milikapiti, Melville Island, see
jilamara.com. Tiwi Designs is in Wurrimiyanga, Bathurst Island, see tiwidesigns.com, a short distance from Ngaruwanajirri (‘helping one
another’) at The Keeping House.

Belinda Jackson was a guest of Sealink NT and Northern Territory Tourism. 


This feature was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.

Guide to a three-day trip to Melbourne

Caffe e Torta.
Caffe e Torta, 314 Little Collins St, Melbourne.
Photo: Belinda Jackson

Want to drink coffee, sip martinis, frequent the best
eateries and shop like a true local? Melburnian Belinda Jackson shows
you how to pack it all into a three-day extravaganza.

 Sure, Melbourne’s got Vespas parked outside sidewalk cafes and your
tailored winter coat will always get a workout here, but this town is no
poor man’s Europe. The star of the south is home to the world’s best
baristas, quality late-night dining and truly great shoe shopping,
without wowsery curfews, iced pavements or a $1000 airfare. This season,
expect great coups in the art exhibition world, affordable eats from
the brightest chefs and gorgeous indie fashion.

DAY ONE

Good morning, Melbourne! Swan down the Paris end of town where
Euro-fash Doc Martin’s fires up the espresso machine at 7.30am (86
Collins St, see collinsquarter.com)
so you’re ready for Melbourne’s power block of shopping, from Bourke
Street Mall to Lonsdale St. Sparkly new Emporium leads into the
made-over Strand Melbourne Arcade and onto Melbourne’s GPO, home of
Australia’s first H&M. The antidote for all this gorgeousness is the
Grand Trailer Park Taverna. Pull up a caravan and order the Chunk
Double-Double with a boozy milkshake (87 Bourke St, see grandtrailerpark.com.au)
then say hi to Casey Jenkins (she of Vagina Knitting), waiting in the
Dark Horse Experiment artist studios to do whatever you want. The rules:
she doesn’t leave the gallery “and you have to leave her body the way
you found it” (110 Franklin St, see darkhorseexperiment.com)
Need a drink? Wander down Melbourne’s Chinatown, push open a
nondescript door and tell the guys in Union Electric Bar you’d like a
West Winds gin and fresh apple juice, please (13 Heffernan La). Now snag
an upstairs booth in new Magic Mountain Saloon, of Cookie pedigree.
Oooh, that Thai is spicy. Pair with a Tom Thumb mocktail or espresso
martini with cold-pour coffee (62 Lt Collins St, see magicmountainsaloon.com.au).

DAY TWO

Possibly Australia’s first cereal restaurant, Cereal Anytime pops up
in Richmond’s Swan Street Chamber of Commerce alongside the fine teas of
Storm in a Teacup (214 Swan St, Richmond) but if it’s cookin’ you’re
lookin’ for, mosey down to social enterprise Feast of Merit for
shakshuka and a warm glow (117 Swan St, Richmond, see feastofmerit.com).
Follow with a lazy 2.25km parklands stroll to the treasures of the
Forbidden City’s Palace Museum in The Golden Age of China Qianlong
Emperor, 1736–1795 (180 St Kilda Road, see ngv.vic.gov.au)
then explore St Kilda’s most happening pocket, 56-72 Acland St: eke out
a rum-and-tapas lunch in The Nelson, real Peruvian in Buena Vista
Peruvian Kitchen, inhale manchego and leek croquetas at Lona Pintxos Bar
or call for shisha and Middle Eastern mezze in 40 Thieves & Co.
Crush the calories on a City Sights Kayak guided tour down the Yarra,
good with kids from eight years ($78pp, see urbanadventures.com) Now you can indulge at the effortlessly French L’Hotel Gitan. Do oysters and champagne, do the Cape Grim porterhouse (see lhotelgitan.com.au).
Wind down with Australia’s best cocktails at oddball Bar Exuberante.
Expect typos on the menu, expect a knock-back if its 14 seats are
already occupied (438 Church Street, Richmond, see facebook.com/BarExuberante).

DAY THREE

Savour the flavour of a bagel that’s taken a New Jersey local two days to create at 5 and Dime Bagels (16 Katherine Pl, City, 5dimebagel.com.au)
or experience true coffee geekery at First Pour cafe, home to
Victoria’s 2015 barista champ, Craig Simon (26 Bond St, Abbotsford).
Blow the city for a breath of country air at Heide Museum of Modern Art.
Explore the contemporary collections and sculpture gardens with a Cafe
Vue lunch box by super-chef Shannon Bennett (7 Templestowe Rd, Bulleen, heide.com.au).
On the way back into town, take a quick prance into Lupa to flick the
racks for local indie fashion designers (77 Smith St, Fitzroy, lupa.com.au) Nicely timed, you’ll make happy hour and a gin high tea at new G&Tea (100 Kerr St, Fitzroy, gandtea.com.au)
Don’t go overboard: you’ve got dinner booked in at Fatto Cantina,
beloved for its late-night Sicilian dining and city views from the
terrace. Finish with a stroll across the river on the love-locked Yarra
footbridge and back into the city’s heart.

Emporium Shopping Centre.
Emporium Shopping Centre.

FIVE MORE MELBOURNE MUST-DOs

1. Taste authentic Ethiopian, Vietnamese and Greek cuisines on a Footscray food tour with expert Alan Campion, $110, see melbournefoodtours.com.
2. Stretch with the locals at hip hop yoga in South Yarra (yoga213.com.au). If you don’t dig downward dog to Snoop Dogg, slap on the bling and shimmy round The Tan, 3.8km around the Botanic Gardens.

3. Go anti-establishment in Northcote at
the new Estelle Bistro. Chef Scott Pickett tips the Cantabrian anchovies
with romesco, with a Clarence House pinot blanc (243 High Street,
Northcote, estellebistro.com)
4. The Monash Gallery of Art was designed by starchitect Harry Seidler and shows 2000 works of Australian photography, see mga.org.au.
5. Do the Signature Kitya Karnu scrub, massage, cleanse and river stone ritual in the Aurora Spa (The Prince hotel, St Kilda, see aurorasparetreat.com.au)

Degraves Lane.
Degraves Lane. 

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION

visitmelbourne.com/

GETTING THERE

Virgin Australia, Qantas, Tigerair and Jetstar have many flights between the two capitals. Compare fares with skyscanner.com.

STAYING THERE

New city digs include Coppersmith (South Melbourne, see coppersmithhotel.com.au), Doubletree Hilton (city, see melbourne.doubletree.com), Larwill Studio (Parkville, see artserieshotels.com.au), Mantra City Central (city, see mantra.com.au) and Jasper Hotel (city, see jasperhotel.com.au)

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper Traveller section. 

The hidden jewels of Sri Lanka

Ambassador House, Galle

Elegant villas dot Sri Lanka’s jungle and coast.

Petite and chic, the true gem of Sri Lanka is its rising wave
of beautiful boutique hotels and villas peppered throughout its wild,
lush interior and sublime coastal strips. The tiny island has performed a
staggering comeback – just three years after its 26-year civil war
ended in 2009, more than a million tourists came to soak up its sun, sip
its tea and savour its culture.

Sri Lanka and Bali are emerging rivals, sharing similar
climates, a guaranteed warm welcome and an innate sense of style and
design.


Many of Sri Lanka’s top villas are reinvented walauwas, the 18th and
19th-century manor houses of the ruling elite, with grand verandahs and
great halls.

You might see a Dutch colonial column, an English colonial
balcony, Portuguese whitewash and an Arabic inward-facing courtyard all
in the one building, as the country morphed from Serendip to Ceylon to
Sri Lanka.

This is also the birthplace of tropical modernism, al fresco
living invented by Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa and imitated
across the tropics, from Capricorn to Cancer. Book just one room or take
the whole villa: courteous Sri Lankans will tell you to make it your
home – you’ll just wish it was, permanently.

JUNGLE GLAM:CASA HELICONIA

Halfway between Sri Lanka’s current capital, Colombo and the
ancient capital, historic Kandy, Casa Heliconia is, like all the
country’s best villas, well hidden. The property comprises two king
bedrooms in separate pavilions, the Temple Angkor and Pagoda Gold. The
new villa’s pedigree is impeccable: its stablemates include The Kandy
House and one of the country’s bastions of design, Bawa’s The Last
House.
THE LOOK The villas are hidden among acres
of lush jungle with a little path leading down to a plunge pool and sun
loungers. The look is rustic timber doors and planter lounges, yet
there’s also Wi-Fi, a home theatre and aircon.
DON’T MISS For a special Sri Lankan touch,
you share the jungle with Casa Heliconia’s household pet, a (reportedly)
extremely placid, but extremely large white Brahman bull.
Rooms at Casa Heliconia start from $115 a night for the Pagoda Gold pavilion, including breakfast and dinner. See casa-heliconia.com.

AMID THE PADDIES: MAYA VILLA

Five is a special number in Sri Lankan villas: there are five bedrooms in Maya Villa, and you can book just one or the lot.
Ten minutes’ drive from Tangalle, on the south coast, and
about an hour from happening Galle, the villa is designed by architect
Pradeep Kodikara and Hong Kong-based interior designer Niki Fairchild.
The rooms are in two pavilions set around an L-shaped pool and open-air dining pavilion and lounge, perfect for sunset drinks.
THE LOOK In a former life, Maya was a
walauwa, a 100-year-old manor house built in the traditional local
style, with ornate woodwork in the main pavilion, which houses two
rooms.
The new wing has three bedrooms designed in contemporary Sri
Lankan style using cool, polished cement for the walls and floors and
massive doors that open onto a private courtyard.
DON’T MISS The villa is surrounded by picturesque rice paddies and hammocks on the lawn – surely there is no more serene match?
Rooms start from $265 a night for a room, $1140 a night, full villa, low season, including breakfast, mayatangallesrilanka.com. See mayatangallesrilanka.com.

COLONIAL SPLENDOUR: 20 MIDDLE STREET, GALLE

Embracing Galle’s Dutch colonial history, this villa was
originally a Dutch merchant’s house built in 1750, with English
additions in the 1800s.
Recently renovated by top Sri Lankan starchitect Channa
Daswatte and interior design by George Cooper, the four-bedroom villa
maintains its teak windows and perfumed gardens.
THE LOOK The modern luxuries of plunge
pools, snooker tables and home theatres are worked into a colonial
design with sweeping staircases, a zaal (great hall) and open-air loggia
with views over the historic, red-roofed seaside town. The villa is in
the centre of the UNESCO-listed town of Galle and comes fully staffed.
DON’T MISS The villa’s neighbour, Amangalla, is the spot for high tea with champagne or drinks on the terrace.
Full villa usage stars from $955 a night, including breakfast. See villasingalle.com.

OLD WORLD, NEW WORLD: AMBASSADOR VILLA, GALLE

One of Galle’s oldest buildings, the villa is located on one
of old town’s main streets. This is the place to stay when you want to
be in the thick of the old town’s great cafes, bars and restaurants, but
able to slip home and slip into the pool when the temps start to soar.
The house is built for entertaining, with a vast dining table and reception.
THE LOOK Step out of the sun, through the
pillars of the verandah into the cool salon lined with deep sofas. The
whitewashed villa sleeps 12 in five bedrooms on two levels: three
bedrooms open directly onto the pool. The rooftop terrace is a suntrap
that soaks up the Sri Lankan rays.
DON’T MISS Make like a local and walk the
Dutch ramparts to Galle’s lighthouse in the late afternoon. It’s a
promenade, so take it slowly. Nearby Fortaleza is a great lunch stop (9
Church Cross Street, fortaleza.lk).
Costs from $560 a night, full villa, including breakfast. See ambassadorshouse.com.

COUNTRY STYLE: KALUNDEWA RETREAT, DAMBULLA

This spectacular country chalet, four hours’ drive from
Colombo, is built around the natural beauty that surrounds it: the
retreat is on 36 hectares of sustainably farmed orchards and paddies.
It sleeps four in two beautiful open bedrooms, with another new chalet opening in early November.
THE LOOK The hero is an open-air lounge
filled with snowy sofas placed for lounging and contemplation. Split
over two stories, this chalet’s two bedrooms are set among the kumbuk
trees and a private lake.
DON’T MISS Kalundewa is a twitcher’s
paradise, with hornbills, kingfishers, kites, coots and storks on the
visitor’s list. Peacocks are de rigueur (this is Sri Lanka). Take time
to watch the butterflies and natural springs, or take a nature walk with
the on-site expert. Two of the country’s top sites, Dambulla Cave
Temple and Sigiriya Rock Fortress, are nearby.
Costs from $445 a night for the two-bedroom chalet, including breakfast. See kalundewaretreat.com.

SURF SIDE: HABARADUWA HOUSE, HABARADUWA

Languishing right on the beach on Galle’s south coast, this
glamorous beach house sleeps eight in four bedrooms with en suites.
Outdoor showers allow you to revel in the warm sea breezes.
THE LOOK The beachhouse has been renovated
recently, so expect four-poster beds and a polished finish. French
windows open out to the 20-metre infinity pool and the Indian Ocean.
Don’t expect First-World pool gates – children aren’t encouraged at this
fully staffed villa: the fully kitted games room has grown-up kids in
mind.
DON’T MISS Order a massage, a yoga teacher
or a guide on a morning bike ride. Staff can also arrange visits to
local markets and boat trips. Nearby Unawatuna beach frequently rates in
the world’s top 10 strips of sand.
Costs from $955 a night, full villa, including breakfast. See villasingalle.com.

SAFFRON & BLUE: KOSGODA

Think big at this contemporary villa, halfway between Colombo
and Galle, which sits 12 for lunch and sleeps eight in four bedrooms.
Relax on the terrace by the 12-metre swimming pool, set among palm and frangipani trees, overlooking the beach.
THE LOOK The three-story villa is designed by one of Sri
Lanka’s most renowned architects, Channa Daswatte. Guests can take over
the kitchen or barbie, or leave it in the hands of the staff and hit one
of the two outdoor jacuzzis. The den is kitted out as a games room.
DON’T MISS Just 15 minutes away are the gardens of Lunuganga.
The villa is next door to Kosgoda’s marine turtle conservation project.
Costs from $245 a night for a room or $745 a night, full villa, until December 23, including breakfast. See jetwinghotels.com.

The writer was a guest of Banyan Lanka and Mr & Mrs Smith. See banyantours.com; mrandmrssmith.com.


This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.

Traveller: Takeoff travel news August 3, 2014

Bon Voyage shoes

KIT
World at your feet
Click your heels and find yourself wherever in the world
you want to be with the cutest women’s shoes from Venuzuelan brand Hot
Chocolate. Imprinted with an old-school map of the world, they have a rubber
sole for comfortable strolling and the soft polyester upper makes them easy to
clean. Flip the buckle and they’re an ideal inflight shoe, but if you’re not
travelling anywhere soon, just look down, map out your route and daydream. Bon
voyage shoes, $75. Phone 0499 116 659, see pimposaustralia.com.
NEWS
Fabric of life
Weave through India’s exotic Rajasthan with Christina Sumner, OAM, former principal curator at
Sydney’s The Powerhouse Museum and Indian textiles aficianado. You will watch
silk and cotton weaving in women’s charities, learn about ancient tribal dyeing
techniques, block-printing and visit renowned ateliers during this new 15-day
textiles tour. Other highlights include the 1st-century Buddhist
caves of Ajanta, sufi concerts, local village visits and the photogenic Rajasthani cities of Jaipur and Jaisalmer. Accommodation includes
Jodhpur’s Ajit Bhawan Palace and Samode Haveli in
Jaipur.  Threads of Rajasthan tour numbers are capped at 12, tour departs
February 7, 2015. Costs from $11,500 a person, twin share, including flights
ex-Sydney, meals and guides. Phone 1300 130 218, see classicsafaricompany.com.au.
Rajasthani woman
GEAR
Case closed
Choose zingy tangerine or strawberry and you can bet your
bottom dollar you won’t miss your luggage on the
carousel amid a sea of boring black. Online retailer Kogan’s new
budget-friendly three-piece luggage sets are lightweight with a hard-side shell,
and sit sturdily on four multi-directional spinner wheels. The set has two suitcases, 100-litre (4.2kg) and 65-litre (3.5kg), and a 40-litre (2.6kg)
cabin bag, with TSA-approved locks and a one-year warranty. Colour challenged?
Available also in charcoal. Kogan Hardside Spinner luggage set, $159, three
pieces. Phone 1300 304 292, see kogan.com.au.
viewretreats.com
TREND
Bespoke beauty
You’re the belweather, the pack leader, the one who swims
against the masses, and you’re demanding the hotel room decorated with street
art. You’re the epitome of the new traveller. “Curation is the future of
online travel,”
says Mat Lewis of new boutique accommodation booker View Retreats. Travellers are seeking
architectural statements for eye-popping travel snaps. “Our
most-viewed property is the Wollemi Wilderness Treehouse in the Blue Mountains,
followed by Campbell Point House on Victoria’s Bellaraine Peninsula and Alkira
Rainforest Retreat in the Daintree.” Romantic cocoons are the top request. See viewretreats.com.
KIDS
Taming travel with tots
A new travel website devised by
mother-of-two, Ingrid Huitema, is dedicated to journeys with babies. The site aims to take the grunt out of
travelling with young kids and give parents time to reconnect as a couple.
“Taking a few hours each day to eat lunch uninterrupted, walk on the beach or
try a surf lesson are things that usually don’t happen when you’re on holidays
with babies and toddlers,” says Huitema. “We want to change all of that.” Packages
in baby-friendly Bali comprise villas tailored for children, with pick-up at Denpasar airport, car seats and pool fences with nannies. A five-night stay in
Seminyak starts from $1895, with four days’ nanny service. Phone 0408 112 728, see babyandtoddlertravel.com.au.

GOT IT COVERED

That’s not your kids screaming all night on the plane. No,
they’re the ones cosily bedded down with their own neck pillows and eye
masks in cute-as jungle scenes or candy-pink babushka prints. The
Australian-designed travel products are kid-sized and include matching
passport covers and luggage, thus teaching kids that if they want to
bring it, they also have to carry it. Each item is sold separately so
you can build the collection as your kids’ needs change. Pillow, $19.95,
eye mask and passport covers, $16.95 each. Phone (07) 3018 3504, see bobbleart.com.au.
Belinda Jackson‘s weekly travel news column, Takeoff, is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section each week. Visit smh.com.au/travel  

Vintiquing in Melbourne: best vintage & antique shopping

CoteProvence, 433 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

It may be a 24-hour flight away but Melburnian Belinda Jackson says her home town holds rich rewards for antiques and design lovers holidaying in Australia.

‘Which do you like better, Melbourne or Sydney?’ It’s a question we Melburnians can’t help asking international visitors. Maybe we have second-child syndrome: founded in 1835, Melbourne is nearly 50 years younger than its glossy sibling. but despite Sydney’s glittering harbour and its first-city status, we also know that we have a great deal to rival what it offers. Who needs the harbour when you can walk the pier at St Kilda? Melbourne’s design scene is more exciting and, of
course, the coffee’s better down south. You’ve come a long way – but Australia’s
second-largest city definitely is worth the journey. 

DECO DELIGHTS

Melbourne is one of the world’s great Art Deco cities,
thanks to a building boom leading up to its centenary in 1934. Many
architecture aficionados rate the Manchester Unity Building their favourite, but
guide and deco expert Robin Grow loves the Century Building
for what he describes as its ‘sleek, unadorned and uncompromising
verticality’(cnr Swanston St & Little Collins St). Join Robin on his Melbourne Art Deco tour, for $49, which takes place every
second Sunday of the month, meltours.com.au/architecture.htm

AROUND TOWN

Undoubtedly one of the city’s most exciting streets for design is Gertrude Street in Fitzroy. It’s only a couple of
blocks long, but packed with great cafes, restaurants and some of
the city’s best vintage shops (see below). Fitzroy’s sister hotspots
include its neighbour, Colllingwood, refined Prahran and the
street-art-spattered lanes and alleyways of the central business district. Forget taking a taxi, make
like a local and zip between these areas on the trams.
A word of advice for the serious hunter: the high-end antique
stores cluster around Armadale’s High Street. Here you will find the Armadale Antique Centre (1147 High St, armadaleantiquecentre.com.au),
the Francophiles at Capocchi (941/951 High St, capocchi.com.au),
the fresh and fun Fenton & Fenton (471
High St, fentonandfenton.com.au) and the master of quirkiness, Graham Geddes Antiques (877 High St, grahamgeddesantiques.com).

Kazari + Ziguzagu,
450 Malvern Rd, Prahran

MARKET CULTURE

See what Melbourne’s artist community has to offer at the Rose Street Art & Design market (rosestmarket.com.au) which takes place efvery Saturday and Sunday, or look for vintage reads in the weekly book market
at Federation Square, the city’s love-it-or-hate-it modern architecture statement
(fedsquare.com). You won’t find anything
shiny and new or mass-produced at Camberwell’s enormous Sunday market, but lots of lovely pre-owned and
handcrafted goods (Sundays, 7am-12.30pm). The 135-year-old Queen Victoria Market is an institution selling produce through
the week, before acquiring a gifty edge on weekends (qvm.com.au). Lunch on hot pide (Turkish pizza) from the
delicatessen hall or squeeze in with the hipsters for a caffeine hit at tiny Market
Lane Cafe (109-111 Therry
St, marketlane.com.au).

 

CAFE SOCIETY

Design Dispensary, 92 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

It’s said that if three Melburnians are standing
together, an espresso machine will soon turn up. This town has a serious speciality
coffee culture: aficionados hang in hip Proud
Mary
ordering cold drip, pourover, syphon and chemex coffees. The ricotta
hotcakes are astonishing and yes, you can get a latte. (172 Oxford St,
Collingwood, proudmarycoffee.com.au) For some New
York love, everyone’s talking about Bowery
to Williamsburg’s
pecan pie (16 Oliver Lane, City) while old
school vibes still resonate at oh-so Italian Pellegrini’s
Espresso Bar
, said to be the first place to pour an espresso in this town and
still rocking its original working-class diner theme (66 Bourke Street, City.

DAY TRIPPING

An hour and a half south of the city, you’ll discover our
beloved beach getaway, the Mornington Peninsula. This is the ideal place to enjoy fish and chips
and a paddle at Safety Beach or indulge yourself with a long lunch at Merrick’s General Store (3460
Frankston-Flinders Rd, Merricks, mgwinestore.com.au) or indeed at one of Red Hill’s
many wineries. In Dromana, don’t miss Felix
which appropriately sums itself up as ‘unique, boutique, antique’ (167 Point Nepean Rd,
Dromana, felix.net.au) while Big Chair stocks Australian-made, upcycled
furniture and also pocketable gifts (119 Ocean Beach Rd, Sorrento, and 118 Main
St, Mornington, bigchair.com.au) andhe little town of Tyabb is an antiques and
vintage hub. Check out The Vintage Shed
(thevintageshed.com.au) and the vast Tyabb
Packing House
at 14 Mornington-Tyabb Road (tyabbpackinghouseantiques.com.au) before heading back to the city.

NEED TO KNOW

WHERE TO STAY Artist and architect Maggie Fooke has created an
artistic haven at Brooklyn Arts Hotel (48-50 George St, Fitzroy, brooklynartshotel.com.au) which is just off Gertrude Street.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK Enjoy old-world glamour at The Everleigh bar (150-156 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, theeverleigh.com) Euro-cuisine at Moon Under Water
restaurant (211 Gertrude St, Builders’ Arms Hotel, buildersarmshotel.com.au) or modern Australian gastronomy at Saint Crispin’s
(300 Smith St, saintcrispin.com.au).

To find out which are Melbourne’s top eight vintage & antique shops, click here.

This feature by Belinda Jackson was first published in British magazine Homes & Antiques

A tale of three cities: Colombo, Kandy & Galle

A wooden horse, salvaged from the ruins of a temple,
rears up in its new home, the chic Colombo boutique
hotel, Tintagel. Photo: Belinda Jackson

Colombo, Kandy, Galle: discover the triumvirate that encapsulate Sri Lanka’s essence of life. 

From modern capital to ancient seat of power and colonial maritime enclave, they form the classic touring route that crosses mountains, soaks up mystical tales and touches the ocean’s shores.

Click here to read more.

This photo essay was first published in Sundowner (Abercrombie & Kent magazine, November 2013)

Colour my world: the textiles of Sri Lanka

Barefoot’s design house, Sri Lanka.

I have fondled hemp throws in Morocco, lusted for
Kashmiri embroidered cushions, gone cammo with Arabic scarves, and when
my husband told me not to buy any carpets in Iran I deduced the man was
obviously delusional: I was going to Persia, home of the rug. He’d given
up by the time I announced the Sri Lanka trip.

In my defence,
textiles are surely the ideal souvenir. They usually pack down easily,
they’re not fragile, they are useful and, importantly, they are a direct
link to a country’s culture.


I showed him photographs of women working on traditional handlooms
and waxed lyrical about the colours of the country: peacock blue, russet
red and saffron yellow.

“You
have to use bright colours in Sri Lanka because of the sunshine,” says
British interior designer George Cooper, who has lived in the southern
seaside town of Galle for the past decade and stamped his mark on a
string of villas along the coastline.

“In England and France, muted colours work, but you have to up your palettes here.

Traditional batik.

“The colours are more primary. They’re simpler.”

The country’s
textiles were born in the time of legend, says Sri Lanka-born,
Melbourne-based textiles artist Cresside Collette. She’s talking way
back: as far as the Ramayana, the Indian epic from 3000BC; in Sri
Lanka’s royal chronicle, the ancient Mahavamsa, even the queen is
spinning yarn.

Cresside, who recently led a new textiles tour
through her home country, says the main industries are weaving,
lacemaking, embroidery, dyeing and batik. Don’t expect the massive
factories of Bangladesh or India: Sri Lanka’s textiles industry is
small, secretive and, in some instances, even dying out. You’ll need a
knowing local on hand to help eke them out.


Luckily, I have Cresside’s tips and my friend Andrea, a writer, guide
and friend of the arts, who has a flair for design. Happily, she’s also
an English-speaking Dutch burgher – an exotic, ethnic blur of of Dutch,
Portuguese and indigenous Sri Lankan: the woman is a strolling atlas.

In
Galle, the Portuguese element is obvious in the southern province’s
reputation for its cotton lace. Intrepid Portuguese were blown off
course from the Maldives and landed here in 1505. “There’s a strong
sense of Lisbon through the lacemaking,” Cooper says.

One morning,
as I leave my hotel, the luxurious Amangalla, a quiet man sells me a
beautiful child’s white cotton nightdress. Strips of handmade lace
decorate the chest, hem and armholes, and although a delicate white
dress is a green light to my rambunctious daughter for wildness, I have
to buy it. I’m undertaking a classic transaction that’s been taking
place for centuries: Amangalla’s own history notes recall local
Sinhalese women sitting tatting on its verandah, making lace to sell to
tourists until the 1970s.

Waxing a batik. Photo: Alamy.

Andrea translates for me the story of
Manikku Badathuruge Priyani – or Priyani, for short – an internationally
recognised lacemaker. Now 53, she first sat down to lacemaking when she
was five, the fourth generation in her family to do so. Her work is
stocked in local handcraft stores including Lanka Hands and Laksala, and
each year, in her tropical home, she tats snowflakes that are exported
to Finland as Christmas ornaments.

Priyani has a cabinet full of
awards for entrepreneurship thanks to her own one-woman campaign to
preserve the craft by visiting stay-at-home women and disabled women,
giving them knowledge and small orders. You’ll spy Galle lacemakers’
work on the silver screen in Jane Austen movies Persuasion and Mansfield
Park, yet she’s not optimistic about the future of lacemaking.

“It’s
hard to sustain and is dying out rapidly because of the lack of
resources to preserve this craft that has survived for hundreds of years
and preserves our Portuguese heritage,” she says, echoing the time-old
complaint: “Young people are not interested.”

In contrast,
handloomed fabric is enjoying a renaissance, as we Westerners fall in
love with the seeming simplicity of design and clarity of the colours
employed by Sri Lankan designers. Treadle looms weave bright tableware,
and rolls of fabric are on sale in the country’s high-chic shops.

In
KK Collection, Cooper’s interiors shop in Galle, I unfurl cotton
handloomed fabric from its roll. The cotton is woven in villages near
the capital, Colombo, hand-dyed into smart stripes using vegetable dyes,
which creates variation that is frowned upon by puritans but loved by
those of us who see humanity in its imperfection.

Loom weavers at work. Photo: Cresside Collette.

On her tour,
Cresside visits the cloth weavers of Dumbara Valley, Sri Lanka’s
indigenous weavers, who draw on the countryside for inspiration. In
little Henawela village, the traditional motifs of elephants, deer,
peacocks and snakes gallivant along agave fibre stained with plant dyes
and woven into mats. All cotton used in Sri Lankan fabrics is imported,
mostly from India. Sri Lanka is about the same size as Tasmania but with
a population of about 20 million, and while its rumpled geography is
fine for delicate tea terraces, it defers to India’s vast plains to
produce raw cotton.

The bright interiors of another indigenous
design house, Barefoot, are a celebration of all that’s wild and lovely
on the island. In 1958, Barefoot’s founder, textiles designer Barbara
Sansoni, began teaching village women weaving and needlecraft. Under
principal designer Marie Gnanaraj, they now create vivid, high-quality,
hand-woven and hand-dyed fabric while earning a living wage, and their
beautiful fabric, toys and fashion are exported all over the world,
including to Australia.

While I love a good shop, show me the
creator and I’m sold. You’re bringing that person’s skills into your
home. Cresside ventures in to the village workshops around Kandy that
specialise in mat weaving, silversmithing and wood carving, and on to
Matale Heritage Centre, between Kandy and Matale.

The centre is at
Aluwihare, the ancestral home of batik and embroidery artist Ena de
Silva, dubbed Sri Lanka’s grand dame of batik. Her signature pieces are a
wild batik ceiling in the Bentota Beach Hotel and a set of banners of
heroic proportions, hanging in front of Sri Lanka’s parliament. De Silva
is widely regarded as one of the major catalysts in Sri Lanka’s craft
revival: her women’s co-operative operates out of Aluwihare, where local
villagers balance wax and dye to create traditional batik. Their
embroidered cushions and toys are for sale and lunch is also available.

The
time is right for such tours, as Sri Lanka itself awakens to its own
riches. The Colombo National Museum has just opened a new textile
gallery, and there’s an international appreciation for the social
consciousness that guides much of Sri Lanka’s home-bound textiles
workforce.

When I finally, regretfully, leave Sri Lanka, Andrea
and I exchange gifts: flowers and wine for my friend, while she presses a
handmade paper bag into my hands. Inside is a long scarf, dyed strong
fuchsia, grassy green, blood red and a deep royal purple. It is
hand-block-printed with a black motif of stylised flowers and bordered
with strips of gold.

The scarf encapsulates all that is Sri Lanka:
its blazing palette, ebullient nature and the rich embellishment worthy
of a culture of tradition and vivacity.

The writer was a guest of Banyan Lanka Tours and Sri Lanka Tourism.

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION
banyanlanka.com; srilanka.travel

GETTING THERE: Singapore
Airlines has a fare to Colombo for about $1125 low-season return from
Sydney and Melbourne including taxes. Fly to Singapore (about 8hr) and
then to Colombo (3hr 40min); see singaporeair.com. Malaysia Airlines
flies via KL from $975 return including tax; see malaysiaairlines.com.

TOURING THERE: Cresside
Collette will lead Active Travel’s next Sri Lanka Textiles & Crafts
tour July/Aug 2014. From $4842, 15 days. 1300 783 188, see activetravel.com.au.
Her next tour is a 20-day tapestry tour of Europe, from London, September 2, priced from $5950. See tapestrytour.blogspot.com.

FIVE MORE TEXTILES TOURS

Burmese Lun-taya acheik, globetrottinggourmet.com

MYANMAR: Join
textile designer and weaver Morrison Polkinghorne from Yangon to Bagan
and Mandalay, where handloomers create weaves at an inch (2.5
centimetres) a day. The tour coincides with Waterfestival. Departs April
next year, from $4500, 14 days, see globetrottinggourmet.com.

LAOS: The
20th-anniversary Laos Textile & Culture tour is escorted by the
head of textiles at the ANU, Valerie Kirk. From Hanoi into Laos’
mountainous villages, the birthplace of Lao weaving, to Luang Prabang
and Vientiane. Departs January 15, next year, from $4375, 17 days, see activetravel.com.au.

INDIA: Gujarat
Tribals + Textiles is a five-star tour through western India exploring
the clothing, jewellery and fabrics of Gujarat’s indigenous people.
Departs January 26, next year, from $US7250 ($8095), 15 days, see mariekesartofliving.com.

MOROCCO: From
Marrakesh to the imperial cities of Rabat and Fez,through museums and
palaces, experiencing Amazigh (Berber) food and hospitality. Departs
September 28, next year, from $3180, 15 days, see culturaltours morocco.com.

BHUTAN
With
textiles artist Barbara Mullan, travel from Paro to the annual Thimphu
Festival, pausing to admire striking architecture and the view from high
mountain passes. Departs each September, from $4290, nine days, see worldexpeditions.com.


This article was published in the Sydney Morning Herald & The Age newspapers (Australia)
Belinda Jackson