A few years ago I was commissioned to paint some various views of Balmain looking out at water.
The first painting here was part of a series of nine such views. I always liked this beautiful old timber boat,
but knew nothing about it at the time. Later, I painted a larger variation focusing more on the boat,
and entered it in the Mission to Seafarers art exhibition in Melbourne.
Now… I’m thrilled to say… my painting of the Tribal Warrior (entitled The Last Lugger)
has been selected for the First International Marine Art Exhibition!
Hosted by the American Society of Marine Artists, this specialised exhibition features 150 works by the world’s
leading marine artists. Yes! I’m so excited to be included in the exhibition, and alongside some international
artists whose work I have respected and admired for years. I’m pleased that this work is part of the Australian
contingent because Tribal Warrior has a long history, from the harsh pearling industry of yesterday to
the important work of today.
About Tribal Warrior
Pearling luggers of the 1800s were wooden gaff-rigged ketches with low waists working Australia’s
northern seas.Their graceful lines were a magnificent sight as the fleets entered the open sea under sail.
The Last Lugger (Tribal Warrior) was built as the Mina in 1899, when the Australian pearling industry
was at its peak.By 1914 Broome was supplying 80% of the world’s finest pearl shell.
There were over 400 luggers and 3,500 people in the industry, and pearl shell was £400 per tonne
(that’s about $A48,420 today).
Diving brought rewards but was fiercely perilous with no safety standards or regard for divers,
thousands of lives and ships were lost. Divers faced cyclones, sharks, crocodile attacks, disease and
the bends – for the precious pearl shell. Crews were predominantly Aboriginal skin divers, with up to
57 divers per boat. The conditions were harsh and cramped with no facilities, safety standards
or regard for divers. Thousands of lives and ships were lost in those years.
During WW2, many boats were requisitioned by the Australian Navy or various uses, then, as the industry
was declining, many boats were refitted for prawning and other commercial fishing activities. Cultured pearling
was finally introduced in the 1970’s.
Today only 14 boats remain.
Tribal Warrior is the oldest lugger still afloat. Repurposed as a maritime training and mentoring vessel for young Indigenous sailors, and for traditional cultural day cruises, you could say she has turned full-circle.
Today she resides in the calm waters of Blackwattle Bay in Sydney Harbour. Tribal Warrior website