Friday, 25 January 2013

Street Talk: Darren The Artist.

The thing about doing Street Talk every Friday is that I have to go up to a stranger and start talking to them. I don't always feel like doing that, because for someone who's so passionate about human rights ... I kind of don't like humans very much.

Anyway, I walked up Katoomba Street with Max yesterday. We were buying pastries, sushi and a lot of chocolate for a movie marathon. Max thinks Street Talk is "the coolest thing, mum!" Which makes me want to keep doing it. I told him I have to find somebody for this week, so started scouting around. As we walked past some guy sitting on the street playing a didgeridoo, he looked up at me and raised a finger as a hello. I raised a finger back.

Obviously, this was my guy.

Max was too embarrassed to stop, asked if I could meet him in the gaming shop when I was done. I went back and crouched down next to the didgeridoo guy and felt SO EMBARRASSED when I asked him if I could ask him some questions for my blog. He turned to look at me straight away, said, of course, he'd love too!

His name is Darren Cooper, an extraordinarily talented Aboriginal artist. He'd just hitchhiked ten hours from West Wyalong to deliver one of his pieces to a local Katoomba gallery, but they'd shut just before he got there. He patted the rolled-up green bag next to him, said he'll spend the night in Katoomba then go the gallery tomorrow. I told him I hoped he was getting a good deal and the gallery wasn't ripping him off. He laughed, told me that as he's grown older he can stand up for himself better.

A member of the Wiradjuri people, Darren said he used to get a lot of awards for good behaviour in the boys home he ended up in as a child. He was eventually made a ward of the state. His voice was so calm and matter-of-fact. He is a true artist.

"I flew to Austria for Swarovski ... my piece is hanging next to one by Salvador Dali."

His work has been commissioned by the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council. His website is Koori Creations. His art is extraordinary.

Basically he's this amazing human being who, five minutes beforehand, I thought was just some guy on a didge.

Have you ever heard somebody play the didge? It's bloody awesome. Darren told me that he goes out deep in the bush with a mate to find the perfect trees to strip, and they make them together.

I told Darren that I think the treatment of Aboriginals in this country is shameful and wrong, that I didn't start learning the truth about what white people had done until I'd left school and studied welfare at Tafe. (I even did "Aboriginal Studies" at a private high school, which was a complete and literal whitewash. We used to do class exercises in writing our own dreamtime stories. Nice.)

Darren and I started talking about race relations, Australia Day, the problems with being white ... and black. His son is an Aboriginal activist, who playfully calls his dad, "white." Darren is trying to connect to a family he never really knew. One of the major themes in his work is mercy.

I thanked him profusely, for talking to me. He stood up to shake my hand and told me no worries at all. He went back to playing his didgeridoo and I walked up to the gaming shop to meet my son. I felt different.

Imagine if more of us are on the same side than we realise?

Darren Cooper - ABC Open DreamBox from ABC Open Central West NSW on Vimeo.

More info:
Darren Cooper Biography
"Something Deep Within My Spirit."


Previous Street Talks:

Noelene The Young
Megan The Mouse
Harpal The Australian.

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Write to be understood, speak to be heard. - Lawrence Powell

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