It is winter, so it’s not surprising that the few days I spent in Canberra were wet and wintery. As a consequence, I didn’t do as many sketches as I had hoped.
The highlight of my trip was visiting the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of Australia. I attempted to sketch the geometrical sculptures of the museum.
The roofline includes some silver looking tiles with braille. It is a curious sight because nobody is tall enough to be able to read as braille is designed to be read.
My friend and I wondered what was written. We googled it and found quite the story behind these braille tiles!
“Sorry” was written in braille several times as well as “Resurrection city”, a reference to a 1968 civil rights protest in Washington DC. Other messages were: “God knows”, “She’ll be right”, “Mate”, “Who is my neighbour?”, “Time will tell”, “Good as gold” and “Love is blind”.
Howard Raggatt, the architect, said that he chose the politically provocative word, “sorry”, as a personal protest against the Howard government’s unwillingness to apologise to the aboriginal Stolen Generations of Australia.
Not even the museum director knew what the braille characters were. Raggatt nearly got away with it, until an eagle-eyed engineer decoded the writing on the wall just before the building was due to open in March 2001.
The reaction was explosive, he said. “Ballistic is an understatement — they were just beside themselves with anger,” he said. The Howard government was livid and insisted that the braille panels were removed. But he refused, instead offering up a compromise. He suggested installing metal discs across the panels. He got the last laugh though as some of the ‘sorry’ panels survived the purge, and have been there all along, for 20 years. “We censored enough for people to be happy with it,” he said. “I don’t know that anyone checked up on us, and we may not have been as thorough as we should’ve been.”
I sketched the interior of the apartment we stayed at. I drew this standing up and drew it all with an Artline pen, with no initial pencil lines, and then added watercolour paint.
We tried a few of the cafe’s around the apartment. This was the view from one of the cafe’s that I tried to sketch.
I didn’t finish the sketch because it just about did my head in.
We had a short wander through the botanical garden.
Then it was back home to Tasmania.
Cheers, Patricia (PJ)