Tag Archives: JK.Leahy stories

Living My Mother’s Dream – Beauty Within (PNG) Art Exhibition


Beauty Within PNG Art Exhibition

“Anticipation” – watercolour JKLeahy Art©

On November 14th, 2017, in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG), I will show 50 pieces of my watercolours, mixed media and art studies, making this show the first fine art solo exhibition for any Papua New Guinea female artist.

On this final project for the year 2017, I will live my mother, Freda Kauc’s dream. Her dream was that I become an artist full-time. She said I had worked enough (over twenty years as a volunteer) in the capacity of an arts curator for other PNG and Pacific artists. My mother also said, I had the right to practice and show my own art. She also said the general work-place environment for any work was becoming harsh and toxic and she couldn’t see me there for long.  I hate to admit it, but she was right.

“Ting ting” – (“Thinking”) – Mixed media on paper. JKLeahy Art©

My mother had believed art making was my true calling and persisted for over 20 years. Art is part of my life, beginning with my early years with my mother, her extended family, and the people from Wagang Village. I had taken part in several different art practices, including, but not restricted to contemporary and cultural performance arts, music, photography, writing, installation art, crafts and now painting. It was never as a “job”, or something I could make money from. Art making for me until now was purely for joy. One cousin asked once, “why are you wasting your time (on art)?’ How could I have answered that in one sentence, so I said, “you wouldn’t understand cous.”

I remember what I wanted to be when I grew up and that was to be a dancer. I danced with my people in our cultural performances and later with other groups from PNG and into the PNG National Theatre company. But, I ended up being a journalist and then a curator. I was scheming on the edges of art making, but I continued to pencil sketch and show my mother. This annoyed her. When I was pregnant with my first son, in 1994, I needed to get out of corporate and relax so I took acrylic lessons every Saturday and really loved it, but drawing was my number one love. We moved to Australia in 2004, and my mother visited in 2006. I started a drawing class, but one student said, “you should teach” so I dropped out and took watercolour class with our community education. I showed my mother the washes. I painted a PNG portrait in watercolour my mother and I named “Agnes” because she reminded us of an Agnes. I sold this picture in an exhibition. My mother told me to make more to sell, but I wouldn’t. I was not confident.

Mama came back to Brisbane in 2008, 2010 and 2011 where she made me put some work in other exhibitions. I sold them. Once one of my work ended in an auction and I got more money for it then I thought.

“I told you so,” my mother said. I argued it wasn’t enough to pay of the mortgage.

In 2016, she came to Brisbane again for a visit and I extended her visa to 12 months. I told her I needed to finish my memoir, and she said I needed to paint. She had a good amount of time on her hands to make me make art while we told stories and i sent away job applications.

January 2017,  after losing my last pathetic job in administration with an Aged Care organisation, I began my mother’s dream and my new journey with fear and hesitation. I’m still looking for work. I am unemployed and the art takes my mind away to good places. The art making also made the fear go away eventually. The unknown combined with fear of failure gnaws at me but I continue to paint. My mother sat up late into the mornings, knitting her bags while I was painting and washing studies of various subjects as we spoke about the memoir. I posted a few of those washes here, on this blog.

Mama Graun. Watercolour. JKLeahy Art©

The longer, I could not get employment, the more my mother relished at the opportunity for me to practice my art. By February 2017, I landed an art commission work with a large business. I had donated one of my painting image to a petroleum conference and later a cousin showed the work to her bosses.  When I was engaged, the client asked me to paint a watercolour four times larger than what I usually painted. And just like my mother would have said, when I told the client, “I have never made art that big”, my client replied: “Why not?”

The same client went on to say: “You were meant for this work (painting)”.

I suddenly realised, I was stopping myself; both the client and my mother were right. I had built a skill for twenty years or more, and not used it to its full potential. I believed ‘work” was in an office.

I began working out ways to paint my client’s order and even had to contact Arches in France to get watercolour paper cut large enough to paint on; regular store sizing was too small. Arches referred me to a supplier Parkers, in Sydney. And my son cut a board large enough of the paper. This didn’t fit the dining table, but I could stick it under the trees and paint during the day. It was good to paint in nature and the drying was quick between washes.

Six large paintings were done to my own disbelief and off it went to Singapore. The client loved it. From then on, I could not hear the end of my mother’s reminders, and her “I told you so’s”.

And soon after the Singapore job, I was invited to show my work at Redlands Performance Arts in the Wantok Melanesia Showcase and now the solo exhibition in PNG.

Thank you to this amazing woman, Freda Kauc for making her dream my reality. I’m loving it so much. Thank you Mama. The details of my solo exhibition is on the poster. Part of my sales will be donated to two children’s charity organisation in PNG. I will launch my limited edition art prints on a separate website in December. I would like to sincerely thank my sponsors for the First Female PNG Solo Art Exhibition: Royal Papua Yacht Club, Moore Printing, Frameshop, Whittaker, Kalem, Air Niugini, Rocky Roe Photographics, Daisy Taylor, and all friends and family members that have assisted me.

(Ps – I will be away from the blog for two weeks from next week).

Media coverage so far:

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Bird Jackpot – Picture Story


The crested pigeon (Ocyphaps lophotesis) is one of two species in Australia with a black spike on its head. This one is a remainder of two I had on my property. I believe the wild cat (abandoned house pet) has eaten one. In the picture also are lorikeets, honey eaters and magpies.

A hot day in Brisbane can be uncomfortable and irritating, but for me, it was an opportunity to see who was visiting the blue waterhole at Bellbowrie. When I got closer, two days ago, I hit a bird jackpot. Ten-twelve birds of four species had come to drink. Photos are ordinary because I had a short lens and had to go behind the tree. And when the birds had drunk and started to fly away, my feathered son caught me behind the tree so he lingered on to say hello.

Kaz and a honey eater or noisy minor as they are known. Noisy miners usually gang up and attack larger birds, but on the property they are quite sweet and tolerate all the other birds.
Katz the feathered son.

The Art of a Doctor: Powesiu Lawes


A self-taught artist, this man showed artistic skills as a child by simply drawing fishermen on the sandy beaches in his remote Papua New Guinea village.  Years later, he ventured into higher education and became a medical doctor, yet never leaving behind his love of drawing.

Dr Powesiu Lawes on the beach at his beloved Loniu Village, Manus, Papua New Guinea.

Born in 1957 in Loniu Village, on Los Negros Island, in Manus Province, Powesiu Lawes’ art began as drawings in the sand. He recalls that he always enjoyed capturing images of fishermen catching fish on the reef at dawn and later at dusk.

A gifted school student, he quickly accelerated from Primary to Secondary School in Manus Province, during the Australian colonial administration. From his home province, Manus, he was selected into the elite Sogeri Senior High School outside Port Moresby (now PNG Capital) in the early 1970s. He was recognised at each school he attended as a talented artist, actor, sportsman and gifted student whose abilities would enable him to do anything he wanted in the soon-to-be newly independent Papua New Guinea. PNG gained its Independence in September 16, 1975.

At that time, Powesiu was expected to train to become one of PNG’s first airline pilots, but he rejected this path and began medical school. While studying medicine,  he produced a collection of work published in his first book of art – Wati Kui: “I always wanted to help people, so medical school was a natural choice and my art and the first book – Wati Kui – was one way to pay my way through my medical training”.

After graduating from medical school, Powesiu Lawes spent some years as the senior medical officer in the PNG Navy. Then he began his private medical practice in Port Moresby. He maintained his art rugby union coaching and stayed closely connected to his beloved Loniu Village, by regularly trips home.

In 2009,  he retired from medical practice and returned to Loniu Village where he was elected the Councillor of Loniu, Los Negros’ largest village. The village has its own distinct language and cultural practices and is also known for producing  PNG’s educated elite such  as PNG’s Supreme Court judges, academics, diplomats, doctors, scientists and lawyers. Powesiu Lawes’ art is one central strategy in keeping Loniu’s cultural practices alive, along with his aim of establishing a Loniu Culture House in the village to teach Loniu’s youth their unique practices.

“Without a good grounding in the tradition of their birth” he said,  “many of them will lose their way once they leave the village for the bright lights and temptations of Lae, Port Moresby and beyond. I never did, because of the very grounding I had”.

About art, he said he has tried many different mediums – using brushes,  spray painting for murals, and coloured inks; but the result that black ink on white paper gives, is the medium that gives him the greatest satisfaction. He has completed a second book – Wati Kui 2 – and its drawings are currently shown in Redlands Performing Art Centre in Cleveland (Brisbane, Australia). It is part of the Melanesian Wantok Showcase. Here are some of  Dr Lawes’ artwork and their stories

The ‘Loniu Files’: Some customs and traditions of the Loniu people. Pen and Ink drawing by Dr Powesiu Lawes, Papua New Guinea artist

 

The ‘Loniu Files’: Some customs and traditions of the Loniu people

Loniu, like many other societies, has a well-developed set of cultural practices and traits that have provided reference points for Loniu’s cultural, social and spiritual development over hundreds of years. These have contributed to refined sets of knowledge and skills that have sustained and maintained Loniu society. The Loniu Files is a set of shared and understood ideas, idiosyncrasies, beliefs, values, knowledge and language. The substance of these has stood time’s test and cannot be disproven nor proven.

Aspects of Loniu’s culture are respect (u-uie), being sorry (kolumwamwa) and having shame (pulemachi), to whom, for what, and why; clans, their names, their number and the existence and origins of sub clans, along with each clan’s and sub clans’s origin stories and particular practices (reke pwen); in the various fishing methods, by which clans they are owned them, for what fish and whether for private or public consumption; the layout and size of a clan house (haus boi); utterances made by whom, when, where and for what purpose; who can make public speeches, where he sits or stands and why; land and sea uses and how and why, in the case of land or other property, it is given away; stages of custom and traditional practice during or after a death, when a woman is ready to marry, and gets married; and in the case of two or more wives, the use and distribution of land and other property; who is considered a leader and why; who gives advice to and stays with a young girl in her first menstruation, the advice given and why; who speaks in a haus boi during a customary event, gathering or happening, and why; circumcision of young males, the curses (pen) shouted at them by patrilineal relatives (lau-a-niataman, family of father) and why.

These are but a few of Loniu’s cultural traits with many more needing documentation. Efforts are being made to document the Loniu culture and to preserve its language. It is our identity that, because of modern influences and intermarriage, has deteriorated. Because of ignorance of the power of new ideas, practices and attitudes, not recognising these causes early enough, we have failed.

“Traditional Wealth in Transaction”. Pen and Ink drawing by Dr Powesiu Lawes, Papua New Guinea artist

 

Wealth is always used in very important transactions in Loniu society. Clay pots, wooden bowls, grass skirts, arm bands or waist bands, shell money, dog’s teeth and sometimes cowry shells.

They can be used to reciprocate for a large supply of food given to a husband’s people as bride price or as death payments to a deceased father’s people; again as in reciprocation for previous work done or land used and money or other customary events and obligations, such as in a circumcision ceremony.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Songbird of Articulate Words


A Songbird of Articulate Words – J.K.Leahy Story

Jenny and Tawny.

A songbird is a bird that produces musical sounds which are like singing, according to the Webster dictionary. If that’s the case then photographer/poet Jenny Campbell is a songbird in my view.

I can confidently say this after listening to her at a lunch table last week in Brisbane, reciting one of her poems about the world we live in.

I share the love of birds with Jenny, but she takes her love for these feathered creatures to another level where she stalks them in the swamps and photographs them – then writes poetry about them. The ‘stalking’ is also called bird-watching. Jenny also writes serious poetry about life, the environment and politics.

Jenny Campbell the poet.

I met Jenny a week ago in Brisbane through a dear friend Dr Susan Cochrane, an arts curator and a writer. Jenny is one of many artists participating in the Blue Mountains Garden of Earthly Delights Festival in November. In the Blue Mountains show, she will be featuring her bird photography and poetry. Dr Cochrane is the curator of the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens show marking its 30th anniversary. Another artist participating in the botanic show, is Orly Faya.

Jenny is currently in Brisbane  for the QPF2017 Australia Poetry Slam – Queensland Finals. She is one of 20 finalists. Below this story Jenny has kindly allowed me to feature one of her bird photographs and the poem she wrote for this bird – an Australian robin. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Let’s wish Jenny Campbell all the best in the poetry finals this Sunday, ( August 27th) at the Judith Wright Centre, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.

Take us to another place
where vines entwine the heart
correcting misconceptions
through the first and final art

Untwine entrenched surrender
feel the struggle to betray
the very chains that bind us
as a Robin says: “G’day.”

Eastern Yellow Robin, Australia

 

Macro Mantis Max


Macro Mantis Max  – J.K.Leahy Stories

Praying Mantis Max is on the hot water jug. J.K.Leahy Pic.

I haven’t photographed with my macro lens in a long while, but tonight I was surprised by this macro praying mantis when I tried to make myself a cup of tea. It sat there on my water jug which had not been boiled yet. A closer look; Max as we shall name him or her, is adorned like a gorgeous African queen with matching coloured skirt to her large stud earrings. This little brown insect is not more than ten centimetres long without its wings.

It was very still when I took the photos, but because a hungry gecko was nearby, I lifted it away from the jug and placed him high in the ceiling. That’s all I could do. Praying mantis were part of my early life when I spent hours in the bush and gardens with my grandma. We have a song which we sing when we see one, and it actually makes them dance. I didn’t try the song tonight or make Max dance, but I tried to save Max, knowing Max had too many predators around.

Fun Fact from National Geographic:

The praying mantis is named for its prominent front legs, which are bent and held together at an angle that suggests the position of prayer. By any name, these fascinating insects are formidable predators. They have triangular heads poised on a long “neck,” or elongated thorax.

 

 

The Dawn Fruit Pickers: A Story


J.K.Leahy PIc. Sulphur-crested cockatoo eating a passion fruit. Is that a look of remorse at being caught red-handed or a look of defiance?

There was a commotion outside my house in Bellbowrie, Queensland a few days ago.  All the windows and curtains were shut. I dreaded that the neighbour’s dogs were back following a recent attack. The had come over a month ago and attacked our chickens, almost killing the rooster. The rooster survived the attack, but lost the use of its feet and started to develop ulcers. We had him put down two weeks after the attack.

Since then, the other three chickens’ were very nervous. They were frightened by the distant dog barks, people laughing, cars passing by, the crows that live in the back yard, and even the plane flying overhead. I was annoyed by the chickens constant panic cries and all the false alarms by now. But, I keep getting reminded by one of my favourite stories as a child, the Aesop Fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”. I would have this nagging thought, full of guilt, “what if..?” (That is what if the neighbours dogs were back?)

I sprung out of bed and quickly opened the curtain. The chickens were still moving around nervously in the backyard, but nothing was on them or at them from the ground. They were staring into the trees. Something was moving in the pepper tree. The pepper tree was completely covered with my passion fruit vine and full of the season’s fruits, many were ready to pick. I could not see the moving thing; I knew it couldn’t be the possums, because with daylight, they were asleep in the roof. I had another thought, a large snake.

I moved to another room and opened the window to take a better look. Sure enough, there it was – a little white clump of feather moving in the thick greenery. The window opening distracted the sulphur-crested cockatoo and it sat up from the bushy tree and looked straight at me. In its claw was the half-eaten juicy passion fruit.

“The thief is back,” I told myself.  The same cockatoo and company also stole the macadamia on my two trees and most times, they removed the nuts while still green, and dropped them to the ground.

Sulphur-crested cockatoos can be kept as pets and they are beautiful birds to look at. They are also quite majestic when they fly and their wings are fully stretched. But these birds travel in pairs or colonies and are often quite destructive. They had come every season for the macadamia, and sometimes I chased them away because they were so noisy.

Today, the cockatoo just sat there, devouring the fruit and then took another ripe one. I did keep them away from the passionfruit bush previous seasons by wrapping all the fruits in bags. I forgot to do that this season. The bird picked every fruit and dropped the un-ripe ones to the ground. I took a few pictures, but when the bird threw the unripe fruits to the ground, I chased it off.

The next day, even before dawn, I heard noises outside my window. The chickens were still asleep. I looked at the pepper tree. It was weighed over towards my room. The pepper tree was completely covered with a gang of cockatoos, clawing their way over the passion fruit bushes and branches and eating very quietly. They worked like the fruit pickers across Queensland who rise at dawn and work their way through the orchards.

I was amazed at how quiet and sneaky they were, a complete opposite to their usual loud antiques. I was too tired to chase them off, but by the time I was ready to wake up, they left me two ripe, one wrinkled and two green passion fruits from the entire season’s harvest. In spite, I pulled the remaining five down, but I decided not to chop the vine. I must remember to save the fruit before the cockatoos return the next season. They have tasted the sweetness of the fruit of passion.

 

The Passion of Autumn


The Passion of Autumn – Passion fruit flowers with fruits

After the recent rains, we have a high yield of passion fruit, both flowers and fruit arriving rapidly this season, and just before we go into winter.  When the fruit of passion arrives, there is always a party in my backyard for many living things. The vines have completely taken over a pepper tree and all insects and animals are helping themselves to the nectar of the intoxicating beautiful flowers and green fruits. Hopefully there will be some left to ripen for the bats, possums and my family to enjoy in winter.

 

Where the Butterflies Sleep – Photography


Under the leaves of the double (petal) fuchsia hibiscus is where the butterflies sleep. The withered hibiscus leaves dying and hanging, provide the perfect camouflage for the butterflies. If light does not reflect on their folding wings or their shimmering patterns, you just don’t know – that is where the butterflies sleep after dark.

How did I know this? I was helping my mother late one evening to prune these beautiful hibiscus bushes and I saw the butterflies. There were lots of them under the leaves – hanging upside down like the flying foxes. As soon as light arrived the next morning, I went to check and the butterflies had gone.

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Kaz is a Father – Wildlife Stories


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Baby lorikeet tries to balance himself on the umbrella tree fruit.

Kaz, our pet lorikeet is a father, and he has been for about a month. I only just found out a week ago. I guess I am a grandmother again, having already had several ducklings being born to ducks my sons and I have raised in Bellbowrie, Queensland.

Weeks before the baby was born, Kaz the lorikeet came for chats in the Umbrella tree (Schefflera actinophylla) while I was hanging the washing. He normally visited us on the verandah where he grew up, at the front of the house. I thought at the clothesline was an odd place for him to be. A three metre drop just under where he sat was a typical place for snakes, and even the snake catcher reminded me a few times. “Dry leaves under shady dry quiet place with both sunny and dark nooks – a snake haven” he said with a grin. I suppose one day, I would cut everything down, but I didn’t have the heart to  damage the place. Both the pythons and brown snakes were removed by snake catchers from this spot and taken to the park. Currently, a baby green tree snake lives there – he is only 50cm long and suns itself on the back verandah often.

Near the umbrella tree where rainbow lorikeets gathered, Kaz would fly low onto the mango tree branches and tell me long-winded tales while I hung the washing or tended to my garden. I wished I understood him. The changes in the pitch and his excitement showed there was some important things happening in his life, but all I could do was respond in whistles, PNG pidgin and make my own sounds so he knew I was listening. He always responded cheerfully. Often he would hop onto the clothesline for a few minutes before he flew away.

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Kaz in his element, as he watches over his family.

One day, two weeks ago I heard a baby bird cry and a soothing motherly response just above the clothes line. I heard these cries start a month ago. It was louder and closer. It sounded like a baby parrot in the umbrella tree, but I could not see it. The giant leaves hid the birds. I also did not know what type of parrot it was, but I suspected a rainbow lorikeet because these birds loved the spiky flower of the umbrella tree which turns into fruit.

A week went by and I noticed my feathered son Kaz coming out of the same tree. He usually slept in the palm and the gum trees in front of the house.  At the house, he came alone and stayed longer than five minutes which was his usual visiting time. He also chased baby parrot Boz out of its cage and ate the crumbs. Katz often stayed in the cage for a while longer. He was unaccompanied. His female partner was nowhere to be seen. Since he had left home, Kaz always flew with her. I wondered if she ditched him which wouldn’t have surprised me because Kaz could get rowdy and demanding at times. Last week, he flew down to me when I arrived home and flew straight back into the umbrella tree and made so much noise. He called loudly and whistled. I followed him and could hear the baby bird as well.

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Mother and baby take a moment under the leaves of the umbrella tree.

Under the clothesline I listened. I saw Kaz on the branch, his partner and a baby bird. I was so surprised, but my thoughts went back to how little he was and how he just fitted in my hand when he first came to us. Kaz could not stop talking and shouting. I stared at him realising I had become a grandmother. That was what all the clothesline storytelling was about a week ago. At that moment, my excitement and sense of pride felt like I could easily fly up to the umbrella tree. I could not tell anyone about Kaz’s news as I was alone. I felt strangely moved and wanted to hug Kaz and tell him I was proud. But he is the wild thing he is supposed to be, and I just hope he can see how happy I am for him.

Over the week, I watched Kaz’s family and how attentive the parents were; keeping their little one safely in the large leaves of the umbrella tree. They protected the baby from crows, kookaburra and other large birds. Kaz visited the house daily to bring ‘take-aways’ of honey, bread, fruit and seeds back to the nest.

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First family outing.

Today, almost a month after I heard that baby bird, a rare moment presented itself when the whole family flew to another umbrella tree 20 metres away. It happened while I was walking in the back. I quickly ran back into the house to fetch my camera. The lighting was terrible and the shots were fleeting, but I am happy to share some rare images of my feathered family. Life can give you joy in the most interesting ways.