Old School Museum exhibition: Oswald Brierly

The Old School Museum in Merimbula is hosting a remarkable exhibition of Oswald Brierly’s sketches and notes, which will be on display until March.

The exhibition will be launched on Saturday, January 25 at 2pm during which there will be free entry to the museum, and refreshments.

Mayor Bill Taylor and Member for Bega, Andrew Constance, will introduce the launch while John Blay, Mark McKenna and Pastor Ossie Cruse will speak about the works and their relevance to the Bundian Way project.

The Eden Dancers, led by Warren Foster of Wallaga Lake, will demonstrate some of their cultural ceremonial dances at the launch.

This impressive display is fundamental to the history of our area and everyone is encouraged to take the opportunity to visit the Old School Museum and take yourself back to a time so vividly captured by Oswald Brierly in his depiction of Aboriginal life when European settlers first came to Australia.

Oswald Walters Brierly arrived in Australia aboard Ben Boyd’s yacht, Wanderer, in July 1842. Later that year Boyd took Brierly to Twofold Bay where they were to assess “its capabilities as a Harbour and site for a town” with a road leading to the rich pastures of the Maneroo. Brierly took “full charge and superintendence of everything” including command of the Wanderer, and project manager of the construction work.

An accomplished artist with a keen eye, Brierly took in everything he saw and made detailed sketches and notes in journals, the originals of which are held in the Mitchell Library. Almost immediately on landing in Turembulerrer (southern Twofold Bay) he developed an interest in the Aboriginal people, and was delighted when a party of natives, wearing possum cloaks and carrying spears and boomerangs, came to meet him. He wrote that “news of our arrival at the bay brought in a number of natives from different parts of the country round, they lighted their small fires along the beach close to our tents.” His descriptions of their way of life, living by hunting kangaroo and emu and fishing from their bark canoes, are an invaluable historical resource today.

There is so much more that is described in the transcriptions on display, including his friendship with Budginbro, also called “Toby”, who showed Brierly the old pathways to the Monaro, which were later surveyed and became roads, and which are now again being developed as part of the Bundian Way project.

The community is indebted to John Blay, Bundian Way Project Officer, Mark McKenna, author and academic, and Christine Freudenstein who have spent many, many hours sorting through Brierly’s papers in the Mitchell Library to put the information together. There are numerous parallel journals and Brierly’s handwriting is almost indecipherable at times as much of the ink has faded.

The idea was formed around 2002 when John was living at the old Davidson whaling station in Twofold Bay, researching Brierly as part of the South East Forests project. He discovered that Mark McKenna was doing the same thing while researching for his excellent book, Looking for Blackfellas Point. The two joined forces to create this display, Mark overseeing and paying for the top quality reproductions of the sketches by the Mitchell Library. The prints will eventually go on permanent display at Jigamy Farm cultural centre.  

For further information or enquiries contact Olwen Morris 6495 0232.

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