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Jo takes on the challenge of basket weaving and exploring Hancock Gorge (not at the same time!)

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Blog - Things to do in the North West

  • Opera at Karijini

    by Jo Durbridge | Jul 10, 2015

    One of the highlights of the Karijini Experience was the Opera.  Soprano Deborah Cheetham was to perform in Kalmina Gorge in Karijini National Park

    The previous day Deborah did a sound check in Kalamina Gorge and school children had the chance to do a workshop with her.  As it turned out they were they only ones that got to experience her singing in the gorge. 

    Unfortunately the unseasonal rain the night prior to her performance meant the gorge was not going to work for safety reasons.  The performance was now going to take place under cover at the Karijini Eco Retreat's restaurant. You can't control nature and if any of the audience members were unhappy with the change of venue you wouldn't have known it.The organisers even arranged a free glass of sangria for each guest upon entry (nice work girls!)

    Deborah Cheetham performs at Karijini 

    All thoughts of the gorge disappeared as Deborah had all of us mesmerised from the moment she wove the story of her life into her opera performance.  Her journey to find her family and culture and indeed her story of an Aboriginal women finding her place on the opera circuit moved the audience greatly, some to tears.  And what a voice!  It was a magical performance and one people are unlikely to forget.

    I had an early night as the next day I would adventure into the gorges of Karijini National Park and would also be attending the multi-course luncheon of the Karijini Culinary Experience.


  • How an artistically challenged individual gave basket weaving a go and loved it!

    by Jo Durbridge | Jul 08, 2015


    Following a visit to Tom Price I headed to Karijini National Park for the The Karijni Experience. I was very much looking forward to this four day event organised to showcase everything from opera to cooking amongst the stunning scenery of Karijini National Park.

    But first things first!  Let me tell you about the accommodation.  I was staying in one of the Deluxe Eco Tents at Karijini Eco Retreat.  With a huge bed and an ensuite I was set for the next few days. Glamping at its best! 

     Karijini Eco Retreat Deluxe Tent

    The interior of the Duluxe Eco Tent - it even had an ensuite!

    Karijini Landscape, Pilbara

    Serene Pilbara landscapes surround Karijini Eco Retreat.

    Unseasonal rain decided to make an appearance that first evening, but that didn't deter the audience from attending the Acoustic Jam Session featuring local musicians resulting in everyone dancing by the end of the night.  Snacking from an antipasto platter, I unwound, enjoyed the music and slept soundly in my tent that night.

    I woke up the next day to rain and headed over to the restaurant. The DPAW Ranger Walk was cancelled due to the weather and it was also recommended skipping the gorges as it can be unsafe and slippery after night's downpour. I spent some time chatting to Ranger Dan who gave me some great advice on what gorges to see in the short amount of time I had (watch out for my blog post on the gorges coming soon!) 

    So what was I to do on this rainy morning?  Well one of the event organisers convinced me to attend the Martumili Basket Weaving.  Not having an artistic bone in my body I tentatively agreed.  We all got cosy in a tent, sitting in a circle as the Martumili ladies showed us their beautiful baskets and demonstrated how to create one for ourselves.  I loved it!  It was so relaxing weaving for hours, it was somehow meditative.

    Martumili Basket Weaving

    One of the participants learning the weaving techniques.

    These wonderful ladies are part of a group of amazing artists living in the communities of Parnpajinya (Newman), Jigalong, Parnngurr, Punmu, Kunawarritji, Irrungadji and Warralong, 

    Hand woven basket

    A large basket made by one of the Martumili ladies.  A basket of this size sells for approximately $AU700 and after spending five hours weaving a very small basket I can see why - it takes time and a great deal of technique to produce something as beautiful as this.

    At the end of the session I held up my my small grey wonky basket and said aloud that it resembled a dead mouse!  The Martumilli ladies chuckled but were very kind with their comments and very encouraging. I wouldn't mind giving it another go in the future. The other participants in the class (who were not craft impaired like myself) produced some stunning baskets.

    Basket weaving workshop

    Basket weaving students and teachers gather outside the tent to show off the morning's weaving.

    Coulourful baskets

     Top of the class for these students, with their beautiful handmade baskets.

    I thoroughly enjoyed learning the art of basket weaving from the Martumili artists, and if you ever get the opportunity to participate in a workshop I highly recommend it.



  • Cossack Art Award Celebrates 21 Years

    by Robyn Maher | Jul 25, 2013

    Once again Australia’s North West Tourism was an Associate Sponsor of the Cossack Art Award and travelled to the Pilbara to enjoy the program.

    Journalist Mark Naglazas from The West Australian Newspaper joined me in Karratha to attend this year’s Cossack Art Award staged annually at the historic Cossack settlement within the interesting architecture of the Old Post and Telegraph Office and the Bond Store, with its magnificent granite and bluestone masonry.

    Robyn Maher and Mark Naglazas at Cossack Art Awards

    (Robyn Maher and Mark Naglazas at the Cossack Art Award. Image: Lillian Frost)

    This event is a project of the Shire of Roebourne with Rio Tinto as Principal Partner. The Cossack Art Award is recognised internationally and nationally as the most isolated and richest acquisitive art award in regional Australia.

    Shire of Roebourne staff at Cossack Art Awards

    (Shire of Roebourne staff amongst some of the artwork. Image: Lillian Frost)

    6x6 Arts Forum was the first event for the program.  A relaxed evening of arts conversation and networking with the judges, artists, curators, volunteers and staff behind the art award.  This event featured six artists speaking about their art practice for six minutes.

    Mark and I were fortunate enough to join Archaeologist Ken Mulvaney, acclaimed judges Lindy Lee and Seva Frangos, Ron Bradfield, Tabitha Minns & Gavin Buckley from Artsource, Caspar Fairhall (2013 Cossack Art Award Artist in Residence) and William Barton, world renowned Didgeridoo and classical guitarist for an informative tour of the ancient Petroglyphs at Hearson’s Cove, Burrup Peninsula.  This was an unforgettable experience to view Aboriginal rock art dating back 20,000 years.

    William Barton performing didgeridoo

    (William Barton performing didgeridoo and guitar. Image: Lillian Frost)

    The Sponsor’s Preview night was a wonderful opportunity to view all 293 entries, 108 being from the Pilbara.  MC Verity James ensured proceedings ran smoothly and 2012 ARIA award winner for best classical album William Barton performed the didgeridoo and classical guitar that captivated guests in the stunning surrounds of Cossack’s heritage buildings.

    We also visited the Roebourne Art Group, Yinjaa-Barni Art Centre and the new Roebourne Amphitheatre and learnt all about Weerianna Street Media and Big Hart’s Hip Bone Sticking Out Project.

    The Cossack Art Award Opening Night was buzzing with excitement as we waited to learn the winners.  Total prize money for the awards is $109,000 – 9 Category’s plus Best Artwork by Pilbara Artist and Best Overall Artwork.  

    Mark and Robyn check out Cossack Art Award

    (Checking out some of the 293 pieces of artwork at the Cossack Art Awards. Image: Lillian Frost)

    Judges Lindy Lee & Seva Frangos had the difficult task of choosing the winners.  Best Overall Artwork was awarded to Artist Lesley Munro for  'The Way Back', Prize Money $15,000 and $15,000 Artist in Residence Program.

    Artist Lesley Munro  with her winning artwork 'The Way Back'

    (Artist Lesley Munro and her winning artwork. Image: Lillian Frost)

    Sunday morning the public got to join the judges Lindy and Seva in an exhibition floor talk conversation and tour to discuss the judging process and the value of open art prizes.  Following the Judges Floor Talk was the popular event Cossack Family Day attracting thousands of visitors.  This event showcases the creativity of the community with market stalls, craft workshops and live entertainment including Dorothy the Dinosaur!

    On our last day we travelled to Dampier to join Brad Beaumont from Discovery Cruising.  We cruised to Sam’s Island, Pirates Cove, viewed rock art sites on East Lewis Island and observed loading of salt and iron ore on to massive ships.  The Dampier Archipelago is made up of 42 islands, we enjoyed a taste of these beautiful islands and beaches and enjoyed the stunning landscape from Brad’s boat the “Blue Marlin”.

    Enjoying a cruise on Discovery Cruising's 'Blue Marlin'

    (Cruising the Dampier Archipelago on the 'Blue Marlin' Image: Robyn Maher)

    Special thanks to Sean Turton from ibis Styles Karratha, Vanessa Subramoney Shire of Roebourne, Jen Hourquebie from Archipelago Arts, Brad Beaumont from Discovery Cruising and of course Mark Naglazas for coming to the Pilbara from Perth and his coverage of the awards in The West Australian Newspaper. 

    Interested in visiting the Pilbara?  Find out more: at Roebourne Visitor Centre and Australia's North West. 

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