Tag Archives: Tribalmysticstories

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:

Loop-PNG

LinkedIn

 

 

 

Kalem in Pacific Fashion Festival – Brisbane City


The Pacific Fashion Festival was held last Saturday at Cloudland, Brisbane City and we made our debut with the Kalem – Warrior Woman clothing and accessories.

With mum and daughter models Marcelle and Erie Bucher.

Here are some pictures I would like to share. I hope you like them. The arrangement and preparations took me nearly three years and went across a few countries with sampling, but when it all came together, the show was for 30 minutes and we were on stage for maybe 3-5 minutes. It was worth it. I was fortunate one designer could not make the show and I showed extra garments on stage.

Two models showing Kalem dresses with ephemeral jewellery of Jacaranda seed cases (below) and shells and above, poinciana and scrap fabric bound with raffia I made 12 hours before the show.

If you are interested in our clothing and accessories range, contact joycelinleahy@gmail.com

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tranquility of New Ireland – Watercolour Story


The Tranquillity of New Ireland

In April 1990, several months after I was crowned Miss PNG (1989), the PNG Red Cross sent me on a national tour across Papua New Guinea. The tour was to promote the work of Red Cross in charity, disaster relief, blood transfusion services and youth growth and development programmes. This trip enabled me to learn new things, see new places and make many friends. It was a discovery of the magnitude of the work of Red Cross had done in the country and how many people dependent on these services. I was happy to be part of it all and be an ambassador for Red Cross. Unfortunately this privilege no longer exists in the quest due to lack of funding and the changes to the beauty pageant.

During my Red Cross travels, I also saw some of the most beautiful parts of PNG. Pictured is a small coastal village we passed during my tour of Kavieng, New Ireland Province. I took this picture of the house on the waterfront. A few days ago, I was delightfully surprised to find the picture (above) while going through some photos from 27 and 28 years ago. It brought back many memories of the wonderful time I had experienced.

Immediately, I had to paint this little house. The colours I chose reflect the glorious feeling I had during that time, while experiencing love and friendships; the tranquillity and wonders of my beloved PNG. I was very lucky to see a lot of the country during my reign.

I hope you like the images. Feel free to comment and share the tranquillity and beauty of this beautiful PNG Province.

 

 

 

 

Moving Out – Penelope Leaves Home


The Goddess’s First Social Day

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Goddess Penelope soaking up the wild.

Almost six weeks ago we found a duckling, just a few days old, left in our swimming pool by her parents. She has now grown up and is moving out of our house with some of her new friends. I was getting a little emotional with this story so I had to remove myself and put the story away for two days. The storm in Brisbane last night put my internet off, so I could not post on this blog.

This is the third time we raised a wild duckling, so we know that life changes when you take helpless animals into your home.  They become part of the family before you know it. It may be because we have become so attentive to such animals that my sons and I have learnt this duckling’s habits; her favourite place to sit, her favourite weed and her specific cries for different things, similar to a human baby. I found myself finishing work and rushing outside to pick her favourite weeds in the surroundings of my workplace. I have seen people walk or drive by and give me funny looks. It was worth it when I got home and she rushed to me and ripped the weeds out of my hands.

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Anyway, it has been over a month since we rescued Goddess Penelope (pictured above). She also turned out to be a female, even though we named her a little early without knowing her sex (see previous post).

Penelope grew up quickly and took to our chickens right away. The other wild ducks gave her scornful looks, pecked and chased her. This behaviour happened with the previous ducklings we had saved, before the flock eventually accepted the house-raised ducks.

The last three days have brought major changes for Penelope. It was her moving out phase. The duckling took to the water and the bushland in  front of our property easily.  An older male duck hung around nearby. I told my sons the male duck could be a stalker watching her, and my sons argued that it could be her father. Who is to know? I guess I was being an over-protective parent, but I am worried. Penelope has had a tough life so far.

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The three silkies.

Once we introduced her to the other birds, the other wild ducks chased and pecked her and in turn, she chased and pecked our chickens. The regular chickens did not entertain her cheekiness, but soft feathery Silky Batemans (silkies) could not get away from her. The silkies as the Australians call them,  are slow, soft and cuddly birds.

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Her own flock chased her and Penelope chased the Silky Bateman chickens.

Initially Penelope tried to talk to them, walk and sit with them. Then she pecked them, often holding up clumps of feathers in her beak. She got a lot of lectures from me, but we all had to be patient.

Her behaviour scared the silkies and for hours she would run behind them while they fled across the backyard over the weekend. I tried to stop her, but she would run in between the silkies and this confused the chickens even more. The silkies thought I was chasing them too. At the end of her first day out – Penelope was ready to sleep in the chicken pen, with the silkies, but they would not let her in.

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Penelope desperately tried to stay with the three silkies.

After the third day and a stormy night last night, the silkies gave in to Penelope’s charms. The silkies are all males too. The black silky (pictured above) has become her guardian. He shares his food with her.

Today, I tried to lure Penelope with her favourite weeds, but she did not eat any, because the silkies did not like the weeds. She gave me ‘the eye’ like she was saying – “what are you trying to do?” Maybe I embarrassed her, just like I do to my sons sometimes – the awkward teenager thing …

She has to grow up, and I know she is tough and she will survive in the wild. Penelope waits at the cage each evening to be put away for the night with the silkies. In a way, she has officially moved out. She does not make any crying sounds. Penelope has found her temporary home, where she will stay in the meantime until she can fly. My son Nathan commented that, Penelope wants so much to be with the silkies, that he half expects the teenage duck to start crowing in the morning with the three roosters.

The silkies live in a pen which is closed in so  they don’t get attacked by foxes and snakes. In the evenings, they huddle in this corner and wait to be placed inside the cage and locked up. Here are some pictures from Penelope’s first day when she tried to get to spend the night with the chickens.

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I was calling the Goddess and she was nowhere to be found, until I spotted her next to the silkies.
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When I insisted she came to me, she rose and faced the other way – ignoring me.
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I approached and she dived into the middle of the three silkies.
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Penelope pushed her way in, disappearing into the chicken feathers.
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After a few minutes, the silkies kicked her out. But later, when I picked them all up and put them back in their cage, the silkies let her spend the night with them.

 

 

 

In All Eyes – Short Story


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Picture by Barbara W. Beacham

Mondays Finish the Story – Flash Fiction

In All Eyes – JK.Leahy© Short Story

“I watched the vulture looking at me hungrily as I lay on the ground bleeding and injured.” Two thoughts entered my mind. One, it would come for me before the day ended. Two, night would reach me before it did. I shut my eyes and prayed for the night.

“Mama! Mama! Look! A man!… He’s bleeding”.

I wished, that was my son Toby calling his mama, but Toby was no longer five. He turned 17 last June. The Cult dumped my body early this morning and drove away with Toby. I may never see my son again.

“Get back here!” a woman shouted. I opened my eyes. She was closer than I thought, moving cautiously around me.  Her eyes were as sharp as the vulture’s. She was not hungry, hers was a look of horror. What have they done to me, what can she see?

The Goddess Who Loves Grasshoppers


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JK.Leahy© picture

Life has not been dull since Penelope was born. Penelope is a goddess, because she deserves to be treated like one and she is named after a real goddess. Penelope eats grasshoppers like she has been starving for days. Because she is little, she often does not move quick enough to catch all the grasshoppers she finds. She does catch a few; I like to help with the small fish tank scoop. This duckling was almost three weeks old in this picture.

We think this Penelope may be the grand baby of our pet duck Princess. She was admiring her new bed made of a broken ceramic pot with leaves form the South African cherry bush in our backyard in the above picture. It has been two weeks since I started her story and now, she is too tall for the pot and has been given a new bed of coconut husk fibres in another pot.  Although she likes the coconut fibres, Penelope prefers to be covered when sleeping with a very soft pink cotton scarf (see in picture below).

I thought Penelope (meaning ‘duck’) after Penelope of the Greek mythology, the daughter of Prince Icarius of Sparta and the nymph Periboea seemed an appropriate name for this duckling because she is one tough duck. The story of the Greek Penelope was that she waited for 20 years for Odysseus to return from war. When she was born her father, who had wanted a son, found out her mother had her and threw her into the river where ducks eventually rescued and raised her. The truth is, the duckling could be a male and we don’t know yet. If ‘she’ turns out to be a male duckling, that would be funny. We might have to name her after Penelope’s love, Odysseus, to play along with the theme.

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Sitting in her favourite bedding – a pick scarf.

Our little goddess Penelope lost her five siblings and parents late one night when she was left alone in the pool. I alerted my son Nathan when I heard her crying. It was cold and dark and she was nothing but uncooperative. She eluded us for close to half an hour, swimming and diving in the icy, pitch black water. At that time we guessed she was only a week old.

She would only pop out of the water for seconds and barely give enough time to spot her before vanishing again, bubbles and ripples of water indicating where she was popping up next. Penelope was obviously terrified, but very clever in escaping. After Nathan and I eventually decided to split our rescue efforts I scooped her out of the water by blocking her escape on the pool steps with cardboard. Really – we just got lucky.

In its first week in our care, Penelope was brave and quiet. She did not cry loudly like previous ducklings, including Princess that we had cared for. Her mother showed up a few times and it became very emotional but she took to the routine of feeds, baths and walks and then music on the radio and bedtime. She loved cuddles and enjoyed crawling into fresh washing and soft clothing to have a sleep.

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While bathing one Saturday morning, Penelope became quiet. Not hearing splashes, I went out to check her and found her floating with her white belly up – like a balloon. Distraught with guilt and panic, I pulled her tiny body out of the water and yelled at my sons while I panicked. How was I meant to give first aid to a tiny duckling? I did not know how to give first aid to a human, I had seen it done. I called Nathan – hoping he learnt something about saving animals at university. Nathan was intending on becoming a doctor – so my hopes for Penelope was pinned on him.

“Mum…really?” was all Nathan said, distress and frustration wrinkling his features.

I began to cry and laid Penelope’s body on the warm concrete in the open sun and pressing on her as Nathan suggested while I cried. I opened her little beak and could not fit my pinky down her throat which was so tiny. Nathan tried to dry her and kept telling me she was still breathing. All I could see was a round swollen white furry ball with four black sticks sticking to it, that was poor Penelope’s little body.

Drowning was not something you expect of a duck, but she is still a baby. Baby ducklings also lose their body heat very easily. I have seen a few duckling down in the past.

Her beak parted and moved and then opened, and her heart still pumped. It was a good half hour before she moved and an hour before she opened her eyes. Her milky second eyelids had stretched over her eyes for a long while. Three hours later from her warm towel, she made a sound that was not a duckling sound, but rather a recording played by a cheap, submerged speaker. By the end of the day, her feathers dried out and she finally stood on her feet. It was a very happy moment for our family. She did not eat or drink until nightfall and she drank some water. The next day, she woke up, after hours of sleep and was fighting fit.

She became ill with fever soon after and stayed in bed for the rest of the day. That same afternoon, she gained some strength and wanted to walk so I took her outside, into the backyard. To my surprise, she tried to catch the grasshoppers, so I helped. We caught and (she) ate seven grasshoppers. Some she could not swallow; they were even larger than her beak, but she ate them all.

Penelope also loves lettuce and dandelion seeds with the duck mesh. Since she nearly drowned, she refuses to dive into the water and only splashes water on her back when she bathes. After each wash, she looks at you for a towel dry before grooming herself.

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Hopping on one foot.

A week ago, she managed to twist her leg. I found her dragging herself along when I put her outside to play. Again, she was nursed, bathed, fed and cuddled until her sprained foot and leg looked better about 5 days later. In the first three days, we packed her foot and leg with wrapped ice-cubes. She is all good now!

Penelope likes you to scratch her head – and if you don’t she pecks your hand delicately to remind you. She loves the radio music on while she is sleeping during the day and would not sleep in wet or soggy pooped beds. At night, she wants to be totally covered and tucked in and demands total silence.

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The Myth about Penelope

The wife of the hero Odysseus* in Greek mythology, Penelope, was celebrated for her faithfulness, patience, and feminine virtue. For the 20 years that her husband was away during and after the Trojan War, Penelope remained true to him and helped prevent his kingdom from falling into other hands.

Penelope’s parents were Prince Icarius of Sparta and the nymph Periboea. Periboea hid her infant daughter as soon as she was born, knowing that Icarius had wanted a son. As soon as Icarius discovered the baby girl, he threw her into the sea to drown. However, a family of ducks rescued her. Seeing this as an omen, Icarius named the child Penelope (after the Greek word for “duck”) and raised her as his favorite child.

When Penelope reached womanhood, Odysseus asked for her hand in marriage. Although reluctant to part with his daughter, Icarius agreed, and Penelope went with her new husband to his home on the island of Ithaca. Penelope and Odysseus were deeply in love, so it was with great sorrow that Odysseus later left her and their infant son, Telemachus, to fight in the Trojan War.

The Trojan War lasted ten years, and it took Odysseus another ten years to get home to Ithaca. During that time, Penelope received the attentions of many suitors. For a while, she put them off by saying that she would consider marriage only after she finished weaving a shroud for her father-in-law, Laertes, who was grieving over Odysseus’s absence. Each day Penelope would sit weaving the cloth, but at night she would secretly unravel her work. After three years, a servant revealed Penelope’s secret, and she had to finish the shroud. When her suitors became insistent again, Penelope announced that she would marry the man who could shoot an arrow through the loops on a row of 12 ax heads.

Other wild duck stories on this blog are:

The Duck War

Princess is a Mother Again

Saved Duck Returns with Babies

Princess Celebrates Motherhood

Nothing Came with Rain

The Prophecy – Art Project


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The prophecy project, shot at ten locations in Senegal, features intricately costumed figures interacting with polluted environment. The collective work was created by Photographer Fabrice Monteiro, Costume Designer Doulsy (jah gal) and Eco Fund. Each costume was meticulously built from garbage and debris found throughout the site, reflecting the atmosphere and state where each type of garbage was found and returned to each site where Monteiro photographed them.

The Prophecy was collated to address concerns of critical environmental issues across many countries in Africa. (It should also be the concern of the rest of the world). In the video, see how the artists put each living sculpture together.

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Designboom

Top Five Tips on Publishing a Children’s Book


There are a lot of tips on what you need to do when you have a book ready to publish. Here are top five tips on publishing for children.

The man himself, Barry Cunningham, the original publisher of Harry Porter and the Publisher of Chicken House gives a little advice to aspiring writers for children’s books,  ranging from age 7-18.

Personally, I think this advice is good for any aspiring author with a ready manuscript – not just children’s books. What do you think?

The Song of the Turtle – Children’s Story


Winner of the Paga Hill Development Company Award for Writing for Children in The 2015 Crocodile Prize.

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JK.Leahy© Illustration in Pen on paper. 2015.

The Song of the Turtle – ©JK.Leahy Children’s Story

THE night was still and dark. Dogs did not bark. The wind blew gently.

Children and babies had stopped crying and laid their heads to rest. Even the night birds were silent around the coastal Morobe village.

Below the whistle of the gentle breeze, Kalem heard a song. It was soft, beautiful and so sad it almost made her cry. It sounded very familiar.

Lying still on her woven pandanus mat that grandma made for her, she searched through her memories – where has she heard this song? Her grandma had passed away last year. She missed her. After tossing and turning for what seemed like forever, Kalem knew she had to find out.

She picked up her mother’s torch. Beside the torch was a piece of hard shell, a turtle shell she found on the beach. She kept it for good luck. Suddenly she remembered – the song! It was the song of the turtles. Their nesting time happens near Kalem’s birthday, but they have not come to her village for a long time.

Tonight, something was wrong. Grandma said only the mother turtle sang the turtle song. No one in the village knew that song except her grandmother, mother and now her. Grandma sung and taught the song to Kalem while they were fishing. “Who is singing it now?” Kalem wondered.

Afraid but excited, Kalem headed to the beach. As she walked, she remembered Grandma’s words: “Our people are connected to the ocean, we fish to survive but we must respect the lives in the ocean. We must never kill for nothing.”

Not many people can connect to the animals and fish, but grandma said their family had a special gift because their ancestors came from the sea and are tied to the ways of the sea. Kalem walked quickly along the beach as she listened for the song.

“If you ever hear the song Kalem, you know, Mother Turtle needs you”, her grandmother told her. When Kalem was born in the turtle season, grandma told her mother – “this girl would one day meet Mother Turtle”.

Kalem followed the song out of her village and along the shores, further and further away from her house. Her heart beat faster when she arrived at the river where the villagers washed. Where the river met the sea, villagers set fishing nets along the shoreline. Kalem heard a loud splash. She slowly stepped forward, flashing the torch.

Tied to a large driftwood stump on the beach was a long, green fishing net. On the calm water surface, a big red buoy floated just offshore, and at the end of the net.

Something had been caught in the net. The thing splashed again. It rippled and frothed the seawater in a circle. It was large, dark and nearby the shore. It did not look like any fish or crocodile Kalem knew.

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Photo Digital illustration image JKLeahy ©

When she flashed the torch at the dark shape, she was shocked to find a very large sea turtle tangled in the net. It was so large, Kalem was sure it must have been the mother of all turtles. Kalem flashed the torch on the water.

She could see smaller turtles floating about, their heads bobbing in the water. The turtles circled the net. They were all making strange noises like they were crying too. The mother turtle was bigger than Kalem’s ten-year-old body, but Kalem had to try save to her.

Even with no strength left, the mother turtle kept singing her song. Weakly, her tired flippers hit the net and her voice faded to almost a whisper. Kalem’s tears flowed down as she waded through the water quickly and tried to set the turtle free. After struggling with the net and the weight of the turtle, Kalem ran back to the village and woke her mother.

“Help, wake up!” Kalem cried. “It’s Mother Turtle – we must help her”.

Kalem’s mother was confused. Often she thought her daughter was a daydreamer. After Kalem calmed herself and explained, she grabbed her mother’s arm and led her back to the beach. They took a knife and cut the net to set the mother turtle free. The large turtle swam up to Kalem and her mother. She bumped them with her nose before she and the other turtles disappeared into the deep, dark waters.

Kalem remembered grandma telling her about the life of the mother turtle. Grandma said it took many years before the turtle was ready to make babies. Every two or three years, the mother turtle leads her group to her own nesting beach, where she was born. Sometimes she travelled long distances to get there. Usually she would lay over a hundred eggs, but only a few survived.

Other animals, people and large fish eat the eggs and baby turtles. Kalem’s people loved eating turtle eggs and meat. Their village was once a nesting ground for turtles. Lately, less and less turtles have come to lay eggs. Standing silently in the dark with her mother, Kalem thought of how scared the turtles were tonight.

“They might never return…we must teach our people to protect the turtles”, she whispered to her mother.

“I am so proud of you Kalem. The turtles will head to a safe place to lay their eggs. Maybe this was not the right place for them, but they will find a perfect home some day”.

Her mother held Kalem close as they headed back to the village.

Crocodile Prize Anthology cover

The Crocodile Prize 2015 Anthology is out on Amazon