“If you can’t beat it, don’t burn it.”
Adie Chapman is a Perth insider and runs one of Perth’s most popular walking tour companies – Oh Hey WA. She sums up Perth’s street art scene in one line. There’s an unwritten code here that you don’t spray over a mural unless you can do better. I’m obsessed with street art. Street art is one of the reasons that brought me to the most isolated big city in the world. But there’s more to Perth’s appeal than street art.
Perth’s location has earned it the moniker of ‘the most isolated big city in the world’ – the closest large big metropolis – Adelaide, is 2,100km away. It was founded just under 200 years ago by Captain James Stirling as the administrative hub of the Swan River Colony. He named it after the city of Perth in Scotland. The city shot to prominence during the Western Australian Gold Rush of the 1880s. Now, a whole generation of Australians are flocking to the city for it’s ‘golden sun’. Perthites will tell you that their city has at least 300 days of sunshine. I managed to touch down on one of those sunny days.
Perthites would like to believe that their city is the new street art capital of Australia along with MelbourneAshwin Rajagopalan
Andy Warhol once said: “I don’t think art should be only for the select few. I think it should be for the mass of the people.” Perthites would like to believe that their city is the new street art capital of Australia along with Melbourne. After pounding the pavement and making my through some of the city’s charming alleyways, I think this is not an exaggerated claim. You’ll find the stamp of Stormi Mills – one of Perth’s most celebrated street/visual artists in some of the city’s iconic lanes like Princess Lane. He describes himself as a bundle of nervous energy, trying to create a stillness. He is best known for the whimsically grim repose of his caricatures.
A work by artist Marcia McGuireAshwin Rajagopalan
One of my favourite murals is in the heart of the Perth CBD, in an immersive space called Marakool, that translates to ‘with the hands’ from the Noongar (the original custodians of this part of Western Australia) language. Marcia McGuire is a Whadjuk, Ballardong and Yamatji Aboriginal woman from Perth, Western Australia, and she wants her art to bring aboriginal culture into the modern world for locals and visitors to appreciate.
The Giants of Mandurah
The Giants of Mandurah are made with scrap wood, twigs, debris, etcAshwin Rajagopalan
Public art has revitalised local communities all over the world. It’s the same in Mandurah, a sunny, coastal city an hour south of Perth. In November 2022, internationally renowned Danish artist Thomas Dambo kicked off his first-ever Australian exhibition of the Giants of Mandurah. He has exhibited across the world with his unique ‘trash to treasure’ approach. He has highlighted the possibilities found in waste and used his work to create awareness for environmental sustainability. He works mostly with recycled and locally sourced materials. You play a unique discovery game – you won’t find the GPS locations of these giants (six of them in an approximately 100sq km radius made with scrap wood, twigs, debris, etc.) that takes you through wetlands, waterways, bushland and wildlife on the lands of the Bindjareb Noongar people.
Welcome to Noongar country
Each time I come back to Australia, I find myself drawn deeper into the unique values of the traditional custodians (they never say owners) of this fascinating country. The Noongar people are one of 250 Aboriginal nations that existed before the British arrived here in 1788. I touched my armpits and mixed my sweat with the sand before immersing this sand into the sea and cleansing my mouth with the seawater.
Rottnest Island and the seawater ceremonyAshwin Rajagopalan
A tribute to Mother Earth and Father Ocean. Rottnest Island (Now also known by its Noongar name – Wadjemup) is a short ferry ride from Perth and a great weekend gateway. I took a scenic 20-minute flight operated by Swan River Seaplanes that flies over the Perth skyline and landmarks like the WACA (The Western Australia Cricket Association Cricket Ground that most Indian cricket fans will recognise. This ground has now been eclipsed by the brand new Optus stadium as Perth’s international cricket venue). Walter McGuire is one of the Noongar elders who takes visitors through the island’s colonial past when the British persecuted Aborigines in one of the largest penal settlements in Australia.
The WACA, a ground that most Indian cricket fans will recogniseICC
Go Cultural Aboriginal Tours and Experiences keeps their memories alive in an island that offers beautiful sunsets and is home to the largest population of the quokka, an endangered marsupial, that’s the size of a domestic cat. A quokka selfie is a thing but as I discovered (just like Roger Federer discovered about five years ago), it takes a lot of effort and practice.
The author attempts a quokka selfieAshwin Rajagopalan
That’s one reason I will probably back aside from revisiting one of my favourite nature experiences – a nocturnal walk about 30 minutes away from Mandurah where I spotted the Western ringtale possum, a threatened marsupial. One of the many surprises that the world’s most isolated big city threw up.