Sally Harrison: Aboriginal Artist

by Susan Jacobs

In last week’s blog entry, I talked about my personal experience with DePaul’s Study Abroad Program.  We joined our son, a DePaul student, on his Study Abroad trip to Australia.  In this entry, I want to introduce you to Sally Harrison, an Australian artist with whom I have enjoyed a rich correspondence as a result of  a chance connection during our journey.

Much of the Australian tour literature warns shoppers not to buy knock-off Aboriginal art, but to look for the certified works, which can only be found in a small number of galleries, shops and cultural centers.  In all of the tourist venues, there’s plenty of “stuff,” but we saw the wisdom of the advice— you can buy bad t-shirts, fake tree bark art, and even (gulp) bottle openers made from various kangaroo parts in every tourist kiosk.  In Melbourne’s Victoria Street Market, we found a small shop that sold certified Aboriginal art, with all of the profits going to the artists and various cultural centers.  That shop proved to be a portal first to images, then a rich correspondence with artist Sally Harrison.

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We bought a small reproduction of Sally Harrison’s  painting “The Legend of Chirra,”  but the shopkeeper had no information about the image’s significance.  When we returned home, I tried to identify the image through online sources, and finally found the Lorraine Pilgrim Gallery website that was exhibiting Sally Harrison’s work.  I tried the “Contact Us” button on the website.  Lorraine Pilgrim emailed me that Sally Harrison was a willing correspondent who would welcome my inquiry.  I wrote, she answered, and another world opened up.

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“In the time of creation, Chirra was a handsome young warrior.  One day, as he knelt beside a shady pool  to slake his thirst, a leaf fell down on him.  Looking up, he saw a young maiden hiding in the tree above him.  Chirra asked why she was hiding there and she told him that an evil sorcerer had pointed his magic spear at her, and she knew she would be his next victim.  Chirra persuaded her to come down from the tree and asked her name, but she did not have one, so he named her “Pretty One.”   He decided they should find the great rainbow serpent to ask for his help, and they set off at a run.  Sadly, they were too late, because already the sorcerer’s magic spear was winging towards Pretty One.  At the last minute, Chirra threw himself in front of the spear, which hit him in the chest.  Already dying, he collapsed on the ground.  Pretty One threw herself down in despair across his body, smearing his blood on her breast.  The Rainbow Serpent was aware of what had happened and decided to punish the sorcerer.  He changed Chirra into a robin red breast and Pretty One as his mate …… and the evil sorcerer?  He was changed into a little grey moth, which is the favourite food of the robin.” -The Legend of Chirra, as retold by Sally Harrison, 2010

You can read Sally’s history in her June 12, 2009 address to college students during Reconciliation Week when she spoke as a representative of the Stolen Generation. If you’ve seen the film Rabbit-Proof Fence, you know Sally’s personal history.  As an Aboriginal child, she was taken with her mother and put into the Cumeragunga Mission in far western New South Wales.   At 13 months of age, she was separated from her mother and placed at the United Aborigines Mission at Bomaderry, 100 miles south of Sydney.  In accordance with the mission’s assimilation policy,  she started learning to be a domestic servant before she was three years old.  Sally has spent a lifetime overcoming the challenges imposed by the loss of her identity and Aboriginal heritage.

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This is not ancient history; Sally was born in 1950.  She uses her art to link the varied worlds she inhabits and to speak for the Stolen Generation— her visual voice, her articulate speeches and written communication are remarkable for their positive energy and for her connection to the natural world.  In one of Sally’s addresses, she says “My earliest memory was the Sun warm on my skin. I am a child of Nature, it is part of my being, my Aboriginality…”  “All In The Same Boat II” was chosen by the Alternative Law Journal in Melbourne for the cover of an issue of its magazine in 2008 when they ran a story on the stolen generation.

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Now, thanks to Sally Harrison’s rich email correspondence and her generosity in sharing her images with me, every aspect of our travels is enhanced.  Study Abroad doesn’t end at customs; it’s just the beginning of many journeys.   In my family’s case, our son’s Study Abroad journey and our shared experience in Australia created significant  life-altering links that we otherwise would never have experienced.

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To see more of Sally’s work, please visit our Flickr Photo Set.

Note:  All images in this post have been used with the written permission of the artist.

DePaul???s Study Abroad: Are We There Yet?

by Susan Jacobs

We hear of many students signing up for these exciting opportunities, and often their families find ways to meet up with their students, undergraduate or graduate, to take advantage of these distinctly non-touristy opportunities.  We have Facebook and Skype to keep us connected around the world, but sharing in person is an incredible  experience.

Am I suggesting that mom and dad hide out in the suitcase that’s bound for Buenos Aires or Perth?  Not quite, but my husband and I were lucky enough to join our son at the tail end of his Study Abroad experience, with terrific results.  Last year, Ben  (a DePaul undergraduate), was accepted for a 5 month SAP in Australia.  He spent a semester studying at Monash University, Melbourne; since his major is sociology and social justice, many courses offered there fit into his academic plan.  The program also counted towards his experiential credit.

Unlike Dr.  Mulderig’s upcoming trip to Berlin (described earlier), the Australian semester was not a guided tour.  Students signed up for a full 5 course schedule, lived in dorms, and were absorbed into full Aussie university life.  Their studies took them into the outback, through major cities, and along a good deal of coast land.  When the program ended in November, Ben stayed on and  backpacked for 6 weeks.  That’s when we joined the experience.  For my husband and me,  the challenges of getting to a place so far away, which looks like a western culture but is so different, were thrilling  and tremendously rewarding. We met up with Ben in Sydney, where we stayed for 5 days, then rented a car and drove 1700 miles along the coast from Sydney past Melbourne, then up the Great Ocean Road to the 12 Apostles (shooting location of the 2009 film “Where the Wild Things Are”).

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We spent the last 5 days in Melbourne, visiting Monash University and doing our best to soak in the mighty spirit of Melbourne.  We can confirm that  Australian drinking culture is much more robust than our Midwest sensibilities would think possible.  Our Thanksgiving dinner, probably the best ever, was fish and chips at Bondi Beach in Sydney.  In Murramurang National Park, we watched wallabies cool off at Pebbly Beach.  We hiked up a road beyond a trailer park near Apollo Beach on the Great Ocean Road and found Koalas swaying in the trees.  On our last night, we sat on the rocks of St. Kilda’s watching  a ship set off for Tasmania and little rock penguins swim ashore during sunset.  This just doesn’t happen at Fullerton Beach!

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Overall, the key observation we made about our son’s study abroad experience: it was transformative.  He grew; he changed; his world outlook expanded with awareness that living in the burbs or in Chicago could never have afforded.  As he showed us the places he’d visited and studied, he shared his new world view, and he knew so much!  My husband and I often felt well outside our comfort zone— and our son was so comfortable in this new world.  It was good for all of us to stretch and share, whether  we were looking at an elaborate graffiti mural in a tiny Melbourne alley or learning about  Aboriginal artist Sally Harrison, a Kamilaroi  woman who was part of the “Stolen Generation.”  It was amazing  to experience “otherness” of other cultures.

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A parent once told me that her prime goal in raising her daughter was to enable her to feel comfortable anywhere in the world that she might travel.  Study Abroad can do that, at any level, any age. We’d love our MALS/IDS students who have Study Abroad experiences to share them right in this blog.  Victor, tell us about China! Vesna, we want to know how your trip to Berlin turns out.  Christina, share your stories about Ireland and how you developed your website.  Amy, how did your studies in France lead you to your IDS List of Courses?  Post your photos and your stories and share the worlds you discovered.

DePaul???s Study Abroad: Can I Really Go There?

by Susan Jacobs

We’ve been telling our students for the past several years about the wonderful opportunities that DePaul’s Study Abroad Program (SAP) offers.  MALS and IDS students have taken advantage of SAP trips to China, Tibet, Ireland, Spain, and soon, Germany and Argentina.  The challenge for our adult students is finding a program that meshes their academic goals and scheduling constraints: work, family, classes.  While some students are fortunate enough to have flexible scheduling and financing that allows longer trips, shorter more accessible trips are becoming available.  This is a great time to consider Study Abroad opportunities.

One upcoming example of a shorter SAP opportunity blends a traditional on-campus LPC course with a trip that takes advantage of academic breaks.  During the first six weeks of Winter Quarter 2011, participants will take a thirty-hour course called “ENG 479: 20th-Century Berlin: History, Literature, Film” (Mon and Thurs nights, 6:00 to 8:30) taught by English Department professor Gerald Mulderig.  Then students go to Berlin for a nine-day guided study tour that develops the contents of the course they’ve had.  Undergraduates then go on to Bonn, and graduate students return to the US and work on a final course project due by the end of the term.  Graduate students are of course free to extend their stay in Europe at their own expense. We know that first year MALS student Vesna Lazaar plans to be on this trip, and we are eager to hear her report when she returns.  For more information, please visit:  http://studyabroad.depaul.edu