Performer

Performer encouraging audience, National Multicultural Festival, Canberra 2020
National Multicultural Festival, Canberra

Owning controlling,
channeling the inner child,
puppeteer singer.

Hangin’ around

Canberra suburbs

Sticking to the wall,
a friendly neighbourhood buzz—
inside of your ear.

Let there be light

Every year in March, Canberra goes up in lights.

Or so I hear—it’s my first time.

However judging by others’ nonchalance at the nation’s iconic buildings illuminating some of the world’s popular artwork, it’s nothing new.

Enlighten Canberra is a festival dedicated to illuminating many parts of the city for an entire week. Sponsored by Singapore Airlines and ActewAGL, the leading electricity provider for the Australian Capital Territory, the festival features a range of events proven to treat the entire family.

  • Kids' kaleidoscope - Enlighten Canberra
  • Illuminated figure - Enlighten Canberra
  • Giant snail - Enlighten Canberra

A major part of the festival is the night noodle markets, where about 20-30 food stalls showcase steaming soul soothers and bone-chilling beers in a backdrop of live music that ranges from rock and roll to pop to local jazz.

But food, music, and picnic blankets are the highlights of most festivals.

Enlighten is different.

For you see, last Friday, on the first day of the festival, major buildings in the country all lit up at exactly 8 pm.

It all started at Questacon, the science museum for kids and oldies alike. The chief minister of ACT made a speech, as you do for these things, and hit the big red button that officially kicked off the festival. At that moment, other buildings across the city—like the National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of Australian Democracy (more familiar as the old parliament house), the National Gallery of Australia, the National Library of Australia, the Australian National Archives, and the current parliament House of Australia—all featured jaw dropping illustrations.

Australian Parliament House illuminated for Enlighten Canberra, 2020
Australian Parliament House

It wasn’t all. Throughout the evening, these buildings continued to shower their audience with picture-perfect moments that many a photographer has already drooled over. The hashtag has reached the point of over-usage, fuelled not only by professionals with long exposure digital SLRs, but also by self-educated, self-made, and self-centred teenage freaks and Instagram frequents.

Museum of Australian Democracy (Old Parliament House)

The show goes on for nine days, coming to a grand finale on Monday the 9th of March, on Canberra Day.

That day is the beginning of the rest of this celebratory month, where every day from 6 am, hot air balloons grace the skies, showing off to the rest of the world the impeccable clarity of the Canberran sky.

I can’t wait.

All in a day’s work

Artist with his paintings, National Multicultural Festival 2020
Artist with his paintings, National Multicultural Festival

A splash of colour,
strewn across a black canvas—
and the world was born.

A psychedelic experience

I went to an art exhibition titled Psychedelic Realism. It’s a collection of about 50 paintings by a renowned Australian artist and musician, Reg Mombassa.

Keeping true to the overarching theme of the exhibition, most of the art work on display illustrated unreal impossibilities, yet harsh truths that you often associate with out-of-the-world experiences. An alien eye, for example. Or a disfigured robot taking over humankind in space.

I knew I was walking into unfamiliar territory. I’d seen a few images online that helped me gauge a pattern with this kind of art. However, I am a complete novice in psychedelic artwork and wasn’t sure what to expect.

Welcoming me were a few questionable robots. One sat in a chair with a bloody blind over its eye. Another seemed to be trying to take advantage of a man. Yet another one wore a suit parading its masculinity. It all looked a little… controversial and worthy of raised eyebrows.

To complement the work, a mild drumming music played in the background, helping me transition from an aloof bystander to a more immersed viewer, reading into and attempting to decode the artist’s brush strokes and glitter usage.

For there was glitter. To my surprise, the artist had incorporated shiny matter to make his colours and characters pop out.

As I moved trough the aisle, I saw other types of work as well. There were houses and bush lands, and Victorian landscapes as the artist interpreted them.

I later learnt that the artist is the owner of Mambo comics and murals—a popular style of art that uses unrealistic and humorous elements—like an Australian Jesus—to drive home a message. Here’re a few examples:

This exhibition has been an eyeopener for me. having seen various styles of psychedelic art online, I never expected to see anything as unique and unconventional as this. Even though I’ve never had a psychedelic experience myself, it was an interesting to wonder what the artist had in mind when creating these.