The smoke was still hanging over the city – strong enough to smell and dim the daylight.
I had a busy day, entirely planned around dodging forecast rainstorms which were apparently going to involve hailstones as big as my fist.
I’m not entirely sure that they did hit the centre of Sydney as my cunbing plan of being indoors between storms worked beautifully.
The city, like Melbourne has a a generous array of free galleries and museums so it is phenomenally easy to have a cheap day out here, especially if you are a geek, like me.
Close to my hostel is the White Rabbit Art Gallery.
Nothing to do with Alice, it’s a gallery of Chinese modern art, much of it political commentary and it was a fascinating place to visit, especially having spent a month in China and visited rather more… officially endorsed exhibitions.
Several pieces were critiques on the power of brands drowning out political ideology or rather saying that political mantras/dogmas are just marketing.
There were two pieces that tapped into Public Health and Social Care issues… that are not unique to China.
This piece reflects the housing conditions that workers from rural areas are forced to live in when they move to cities.
I saw rooms like this in Hong Kong.
The second work was by an artist reflecting on the decline and death of his parents. Song Yongping returned from Beijing to his hometown as they became ill and he took a series of photographs to reflect t how age and illness affected them and him.
The final three pictures with Yongping’s Dad sitting next to a picture of his Mum, the room with only the photographs of his now deceased parents and then finally all of their belongings piled up like rubbish could apply to any of us.
Another personal piece, though a happier one was the pile of knitted strawberries.
Li Linying finished knitting a jumper for her son and rather than waste the wool, started knitting strawberries. Ten years later, she was still making them.
This was a display that just made me smile.
The Gallery also has a very pleasant tearoom but I was in the mood for either a cup of English Breakfast or a flay white.
I went for coffee in this building because the solar panels caught my eye. Were these blocking out the light to the building below?
They’re not solar panels.
This is a heliostat and reflector system which captures and redirects sunlight into retail spaces and landscaped terraces.
The installation is a world-first with respect to the sheer size and application.
It was actually brighter at ground level as the system did seem to be making a difference in this immediate area, amid the smoky skies.
It’s actually two buildings and entering the light and airy building on Macquarie Building allows you to walk through a first floor connecting tunnel to the older Mitchell Building where the original reading room is.
The Library was also hosting a number of exhibitions, several of them focused on the culture and heritage of Aboriginal Peoples.
One highlighted work to restore the languages spoke by different tribes.
Substantial efforts were made to destroy Aboriginal society – families were broken up with children removed from their parents and communities to go to Mission schools where they would not be permitted to speak their own languages or follow their own traditions.
These were the Stolen Generations. It continued until as recently as the 1970s.
My favourite exhibition was Sydney Elders: Continuing Aboriginal Stories. It’s a video project by Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones, who has collaborated with four Sydney elders — Uncle Chicka, Aunty Esme, Aunty Sandra and Uncle Dennis — to tell their stories about Aboriginal Sydney.
Each one of them is filmed discussing their childhood, the communities they came from and their working lives. They talk about what is important to them in terms of fighting for the rights of Indigineous People and preserving their family traditions.
It was as fascinating and powerful exhibition.
After an hour making the most of some late sunshine in the Botanical Gardens, it was time to go and see the first of the shows that I had bought tickets for at the Opera House.
The lady at the Box Office had told me she had found me a good seat. In Row U, I wasn’t expecting to be convinced but she really had found me a good spot.
I could see into the orchestra pit, reading the subtitles wasn’t going to require binoculars and when the curtain pulled back… I could see every part of the stage.
What had I gone to see? Don Giovanni – not one I knew well, but less ludicrous than La Traviata (love won’t cure your tuberculosis, honey) and less repetitive than Aida (they sing each line sixteen times).
It was a superb performance – the set was astonishing and the singers outstanding.
I couldn’t come all the way to Sydney and not see an opera at the Opera House.
Plus it was a chance to see the view of the bridge from the back of the building.
The White Rabbit Gallery is open Wednesdays-Sundays.
The Library is open daily.