Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Suburb No 29: Waterloo

I found Redfern so captivating last week that I decided to stay in the area and visit neighboring suburb,
Waterloo. Two consequences of that decision. One, I have had a certain Abba song on high rotation in
my head all week, and two, my suspicion that this is one of the more interesting areas of Sydney has
been confirmed.

Why so interesting? Because it's so hard to pin down. Enormous public housing towers watch over swanky
cafe/art gallery patrons, who in turn can drink their lattes while observing busloads of Hillsong-ers
arrive at their church, just down the road from one of the highest concentrations of Aboriginal
people in Sydney. What exactly, I wondered, do the men sitting across in the Salvation Army centre
make of it all? In the southern end of the suburb there's a major oval, a skate park and on the site of
the old Waterloo Incinerator, a new 'mini-city' in the making, Green Square.

Some history: Gadigal until 1788, Irish and English settlers worked in the many industries (brick, glass,
brewery, flour, paper) in the area during the 1800's, joined by Chinese market gardeners in the late
19th century, public housing estates built in the second half of the 20th century. Today, it's an edgy mix
of industrial, trendy retail, and residential (towers and terraces).

Oh, and it was named after the Battle of Waterloo of 1815 (I just find that so weird. An area that

was and still is so 'Aboriginal', named after a war in Belgium, involving the British, their mates and
a small French man.)

Part 1: Aboriginal Australia

many suns

in black and white

his colours

on the oval (Eileen Napaltjarri, 'untitled 2008', Utopia Art Sydney)

kicking goals

the bee and the rabbit


Part 2: Skate Park

having a break

it's a religion

their wheels


Part 3: Those girls again

I ran into the gorgeous girls I met last week in Redfern. Turns out they actually live and go to school

in Waterloo. They were playing on a structure that I've admired a thousand times while driving
through Waterloo. What I'd always thought was a bus shelter is actually a place to play chess - 
or, as the girls see it, a climbing frame.

'wanna take our pictures AGAIN?'

why play chess when you can climb? (Teora)

brown eyed girl (Eileen Napaltjarri, Utopia Art Sydney, and Christine)

flower girl (Kim)

A note about the image above. The image on the left-hand side is a mosaic done
by a partnership between South Sydney City Council, the Factory Community 
Centre, local residents and children and community artists Angela Yeend, Marily
Cintra and Malcolm Cooke.

sun girls (Saysha and Christine)

Part 4: Art and cafe culture

Turn right past the public housing towers, keep going past the Salvation Army Centre, turn left when

you see the big 'Jesus' sign at the Hillsong church and you suddenly enter another world, one filled
with hip cafes and well-groomed people wandering around art galleries - Danks Street. One of the
galleries, however, isn't entirely divorced from its surrounds, exhibiting work by Aboriginal artist, 
Eileen Napaltjarri. 

it's art baby :: 1 (Eileen Napaltjarri, 'untitled 2010', Utopia Art Sydney)

it's art baby :: 2

it's art baby :: 3 (Eileen Napaltjarri, 'untitled 2008', Utopia Art Sydney)

retail, old and new

paper town :: 1 (Thurle Wright, 'A history of England 2010', Brenda May Gallery)

paper town :: 2 (Thurle Wright, 'A history of England 2010', Brenda May Gallery)

it's art baby :: 4 (Eileen Napaltjarri, 'untitled 2008', Utopia Art Sydney)

walk on by 

Part 5: Again!

Checking out a local pub by the name of George, I ran into those girls again, walking past on their

way home. I think at this point they must have thought I was stalking them.

'come on, we've gotta go'

'last one okay!'

seeing double after the pub

all locked up vs free as a balloon

Part 6: The AGM (Australian Glass Manufacturers) Building

This is another building I've long admired but never got out of my car to focus on. It's 1940s
Functionalist style' with an art deco tower. Once a glass factory, now a storage facility (in case you
couldn't guess - I know they need to put their names up big but sheez, how to spoil the look of a great
old building). 

walls of glass

look at those lines :: 1

look at those lines :: 2

Part 7: A selection of other sights worth stopping the car for

lanterns and loops

fuel (Eileen Napaltjarri, 'untitled 2006', Utopia Art Sydney)

nice type

a famous church

the towers that tower

or hate 'em?

an unknown future

Beauty? For a former swamp, Waterloo's got a lot to catch your eye. The old weathered stuff that
sits happily decaying alongside the new. Some great old buildings. And those kids. Hope I run into
them again some time.

Happy Easter and see you next week.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Suburb No 28: Redfern

So, Redfern. Small suburb, big themes. So much so I could have easily hung around another week. 
Another month. 

I lived there for a few years as a uni student. And of course I've driven through it since, on my way
to wherever. But once again, it wasn't until I spent hours in the place, walking without speed, 
eyes wide open, that I realised I hadn't really seen Redfern or thought about what it represents
for a long time, maybe not ever.

A simple example: Redfern Oval and Redfern Park. Two years ago the oval was all about rugby league,
with a great big old stadium and closed off to the public. The neighbouring park, interesting
but not inviting. All changed. They knocked down the stadium and replaced it with a part public, part
sports space. At the same time they freshened up the park. What a difference. I lingered, strolled, 
admired. Two years it's been like that! Who knew - obviously not me.

I also didn't know about another amazing development in Redfern, a 'National Centre for Indigenous

Excellence', set up to "host programs and facilities for young Indigenous people to help them
achieve their dreams and aspirations in the areas of sport, art, education and culture". It only officially
opened last month so I'm less of a lame-brain for not knowing that.

On a more modest scale, the eastern side of Redfern, closer to Moore Park, has also changed a great deal,
peppered as it is with bohemian-designer smart. 

With so much change in the air, I half expected to find The Block, a crumbling, troubled corner of
Redfern that passes as 'Aboriginal public housing', to have undergone a transformation. But no.
It looked - and felt - the same as it's always done.

Some history: Gadigal 'moved on' by the British in 1790s. Named after surgeon William Redfern
who built a country house in the area. Lebanese moved in during the 1850s and got busy running
shops and factories. From 1920-1940s, Aboriginal people from all around NSW moved to Redfern
looking for work. Overcrowding by 1970s saw the start of a housing project that became The Block.
Troubled ever since by drugs and violence, yet important to the Aboriginal people as a meeting
place, there are now plans to 'rebirth' The Block, "to restore a strong and healthy Indigenous
community to Redfern with an emphasis on tradition, cultural values and spirituality" (redwatch).

Other than that, Redfern today is home to many things Aboriginal, including dance, radio, health 
and employment. As well as plenty of whitefellas from all over the globe, a mix of the publicly
housed, student renters or home owners who like the fact they can live just three km from the
city centre without paying through the nose for it.

Let's wander...

Part 1: New energy



free, now


she lights up a room too (former Electric Light Station)

he'd be amazed (National Centre of Indigenous Excellence)

she has her own crowning glory

Part 2: But how far have we really come?

where's the justice? (former Court House)

still so far to go (mural by Roy Kennedy)

I spied the red mural on the side of a terrace near the train station, accompanied by the following 
text: "(Mission boy dreams) From far back as I can remember I've always wondered when we would
have our own home. And 70 years on I'm still wondering. Roy Kennedy"

It was originally an etching done in 2005 by Aboriginal artist, Roy Kennedy,
born in 1934, Griffith,
of Wiradjuri people.


public housing

free as a bird?

Buddy Rose 

I met Buddy at the top of The Block, riding on his bike, didgeridoo strapped across his body. He seemed
like a nice guy, keen to have his photo taken with 'my people'. When we were finished, he suggested
that maybe today wasn't a great day to venture any further into The Block - someone celebrating
their birthday was stirring up trouble and he didn't want me getting in their way. 

Buddy's bike

Part 3: Can we go to the park?

thumbs up

no encouragement required

the fabulous five

down to the oval

wide open spaces

totem pole and towers

Part 4: Ladies from the Eastern Bloc - now living in the western block

Having met a number of Aboriginal people at the new National Centre of Indigenous Excellence,
I wandered down the hill to have a chat with a bench full of women originally from the Eastern Bloc, 
now living high in the towers of Redfern-Waterloo. Diversity indeed.

from Moscow, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan

twin peaks

matching mauve

Part 5: The Greeks

The local Greek Orthodox Church happened to be celebrating Greek Independence Day when I
dropped in. After more than a decade of fighting (1821-1832) Greece won its independence from the
Ottomon Empire - and peace finally ensued.

Eiphnh, 'peace'

serious dress up

well worn

a special Sunday

showing his mettle

Part 6: A colourful suburb, still - Colours of the desert

burnt orange :: 1

burnt orange :: 2

Rose's Corner

Part 7: A colourful suburb, still - Red and green

red squares

and ferret makes three

fading glory

Redfern's green side

heartfelt :: 1

heartfelt :: 2

Redfern House

Part 8: A colourful suburb, still - Purple/Pink

purple haze :: 1

hair and nails

purple haze :: 2

Part 8: A colourful suburb, still - Blue

brings to mind a Greek fishing village (St Maroun's Cathedral)

please bless the village with much fish

security, whichever way you go about it

delicate and robust

tall stories

take me to your leader

Part 9: A colourful suburb, still - Black and white/Browns

black and white is always in fashion

he cuts cloth not coiffs

devils and angels

a suburb of diversity

it's a sign

the Case Factory

has Redfern gone soft?

long legs

Horse Crossing

unless you're sitting on one, in which case you need not worry

Part 10: The future?

may it be bright

Beauty in Redfern? I was surprised by how much, in a number of ways. And the best thing? That as
much as it has changed, it still has its own unique identity, distinct from pretty much any other 
suburb in the city. Hope they can keep it up.

See you next week.