By Jennifer Ann Davies, Arts and Letters Adviser






2017 Cairns Greek Festival – the annual Cultural Celebration!

Cairns, once again, celebrated not only the mingling, merriment and traditions of the Greek culture, but those of a range of others, including South American, Indian, Bhutanese and Far Eastern – lots of fun!


This Book is old and yellowed

By tears, time, the tannin of tea.


It is golden rich with human history

Ideas, truths and ideology.


This book celebrates Freedom; decries

Reversal of cultural and ethical Values.


Poet, pre-purge, a ‘proscribed person’

Never compromising the less credible.


IS there a system of beliefs and values

Running COUNTER to current dominant ones?


WHO is distinguished by her/his Immunity

To the beguilement – of now??


This Book, old, yellowed by tears, time and tea

Perhaps grants us some fresh Immunity? Jennifer Ann Davies 2017



..on the life of Russian poet, Osip Mandelstam..

and memories of Anna Akhmatova.

A Memoir, translated by Max Hayward.

Penguin Books Ltd. London, 1974

A curiously, interesting volume – one of those wonderful translations published in London, by Penguin, articulating the interwoven lives of Russia’s persecuted people of letters, not only the life of her husband, Osip.

Nadezhda, on Anna Andreyevna AKHMATOVA – wondering how people failed to notice that she was a poet of renunciation, not of love – both women having known incomprehensible loss, terror, utter impoverishment and real hunger.

Both knew that when the streets were littered with corpses, then life was still bearable. “The most terrible thing,” writes Mandelstam, “…is when you no longer see the corpses.” p.257. She continued her enriching narrative – “A remarkable thing about most people is that they always believe the worst has disappeared …and the future is sure to be a bed of roses. This is what keeps them going. Those few who sense the shape of things to come often lose their capacity to live in the present, so terrible is their vision of what lies ahead…” p.259.(My italics*)

A grand read about systems of repression that have worked hard to destroy arts and letters – a minutely descriptive narrative about people, things and daily lives …. a heavy ‘salute’ to those who did not reverse their cultural and ethical values…… A reminder to all of us – today….right now….

UNDERMINING WESTERN VALUES? John ANDERSON/The Australian, Fri. June 30 2017.

Reflecting the opinions and thoughts of many Australians, Anderson writes that despite benefits, Western Universities are no longer “…bastions of free thought, open inquiry and vigorous debate.” He continues, to argue that “Democracies have been successful because of the pluralism in our political views.” Historically, if and when one ‘wing’ gains pre-eminence over the other, people suffer ‘tyranny, terror and vast human suffering’ – completely destroying socio-political wellbeing.

Anderson, who had been deputy prime minister of Australia from 1999-2005, advises readers of the works of Jonathon HAIDT, particularly ‘The Righteous Mind’, and alerts the public that the radicalisation of academia “…is cause for great concern…”! Current political homogeny deeply influences those in the streams of politics, law, media, media, the arts and business arenas – reversal and balance may prove vital to a healthy democracy.

“History has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” Michelle Obama

UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND ART HISTORY GRADUATE – Dina Ibrahim – will speak this month, at the Uni, in Brisbane, about her fascinating career, taking her to an enviable global position managing Exhibitions at London’s VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM! We congratulate Dina and many of you may be able to attend this interesting lecture.

Regional Australia – Performing Arts/Musicals/Theatre

In a range of areas, including the Cairns region, local musicals and live performances have replaced some of the larger, more spectacular productions, which, for a time, when funding allowed, travelled from the large cities and also from overseas venues, to the regions. Whilst withdrawal of funding has had a significant impact, the enterprise employed to develop, gain sponsorship and support and present live performances is nothing short of breath-taking! Salut!!!!

Additionally, with flight specials, packages and a different style of ‘enterprise’, residents in the regions can and do fly to the cities to enjoy the more spectacular productions! Changes, then, have been addressed robustly and creatively, and although some working in the Arts may not be as financially rewarded as they could be, these creators, writers, light specialists, performers, musicians and all involved have survived, as have the Performing Arts!

Beautiful Literature: THE BORGIA BRIDE

Jeanne KALOGRIDIS/Harper Collins Publishers, London. 2005.

Stunningly incisive – exquisitely written – fraught with blood, bribes, betrayal and bodies, the Borgia reign of terror is the setting for a WOMAN, thrust into the role of HERO!

Casting all quotes and ‘blurbs’ aside, momentarily, I would deem this particular text the most singularly insightful, authentically realistic piece of writing about the extraordinary strengths and complex conflicts inherent in Woman’s lot.

“I am Sancha of Aragon, natural daughter of the man who became Alfonso 11, King of Naples…Like the Borgias, my people came to the Italian peninsula by way of Spain, and like them, I spoke Spanish at home and Italian in public. p.5.

In the beautifully depicted Italy of 1492, Sancha is thrust into the home of the most ‘unholy’ father, Pope Alexander VI; where the debauchery of the Borgia inner circle is notorious; every lust indulged and every indiscretion overlooked. Sancha, ‘though no simple innocent, possesses an indomitable spirit….

Three wonderful books by Jeanne Kalogridis, have been accessed through our regional library system, from southern libraries – a wonderful gift!

…and back to the natural world – a world of beginnings..

“Perfectly formed…a crisp, witty fusion of ecological passion and wonderment.” Observer

THE HIGHEST TIDE – Jim LYNCH – Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. London WID 3QY, 2009

…narrated by a young boy – sometimes cited as a ‘coming of age’ text – poignant, real and yet another reminder of authenticity, values and deep love.

“I learned early on that if you tell people what you see at low tide they’ll think you’re exaggerating or lying when you’re actually just explaining strange and wonderful things as clearly as you can…”

“Watch what happens when you try to explain something as basic as the tide; that the suction of the moon and the sun creates a bulge across the ocean that turns into a slow and sneaky yet massive wave that covers our salty beaches twice a day. People look at you as if you’re making it up as you go. Plus, tides aren’t NEWS…” p.1

Rachel Carson, author of ‘The Silent Spring’ and ‘The Edge of the Sea’, wondered about the links between sea life and the highest tides. She wrote about European oysters, North African sea urchins and tropical worms whose spawning patterns are so synchronized with the tides, that if you were shipwrecked you might eventually figure out the day and time by tracking their sex lives! p.229

Our young narrator claims that Rachel Carson could imagine billions of years without blinking – summing up the entire history and role of the ocean in two sentences – “…In its mysterious past it encompasses all the dim origins of life and receives in the end, after, it may be, many transmutations, the dead husks of that same life. For all at last return to the sea – to Oceanus, the ocean river, like the ever flowing stream of time, the beginning and the end.” p.245

Beauty in simplicity.

Marie Curie would perhaps smile, as she said: ‘Nothing in life is to be found, it is only to be understood.

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