Banner, painting on silk with bag, 'Turtle cloth', silk/paint/nylon, designed by Jeffrey Samuels, made by Ceremonies Workshop, used in 'Nature' segment of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, Sydney 2000
This turtle cloth has significance in material culture due to its role in the opening ceremony of the 2000 Olympic Games, an important event in the social history of Sydney and NSW. It has the potential to communicate in exhibitions and publications about the Sydney Olympic Games and has historical significance in its design, making, use and in the cultural meanings ascribed to it.
Described by the NSW premier Bob Carr as 'the greatest spectacle Australia has produced', the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games took place at Stadium Australia, Homebush Bay on Friday 15 September 2000.
The opening ceremony was the subject of much public expectation. After years of controversy and insecurity around issues like Ric Birch's infamous kangaroos on bicycles (from the Atlanta closing ceremony) and the recruitment of American musicians in a proposed marching band for Sydney's opening ceremony, it was perceived as a test of Australia's cultural competence. Could Australia deliver a modern, sophisticated performance or were we to embarrass ourselves?
The overwhelmingly positive public response to the opening ceremony inspired a sense of relief among Sydneysiders. In the upsurge of goodwill and excitement (which began when the torch relay arrived in Sydney) the media dropped its negative attacks on the Games' organisers and embraced the extraordinary spirit that had gripped the city. The public had finally claimed ownership of the Games. Cynicism melted away for two weeks as locals revelled in the rare carnival atmosphere.
The opening ceremony had anthems, speeches, oaths, flags, a marching band, pop singers and a parade of the athletes from 199 competing nations. However the daring conceptual sequences ('Deep Sea Dreaming', 'Awakening', 'Nature', 'Tin Symphony', 'Arrivals' and 'Eternity') will be remembered as the ceremony's great imaginative works. Each segment commenced without interruption, following on from the last to form an overall narrative. The purpose was to project a national image to a worldwide audience, to form the world's vision of Australian culture. This image embraced tolerance, social progress, multiculturalism and reconciliation, as well as nature, history and creativity. Designed to stimulate emotional responses from the audience, these segments delivered a refreshing mixture of youth, naivety and larrikinism.
The creative team comprised 13,000 artists and performers, including designers, choreographers, circus artists, costume makers, set builders and painters, singers, composers, writers, arrangers, dancers, musicians. Even more than the high quality costume design, choreography and music, the props were talking points, with the Endeavour tricycle and the Ned Kelly horse attracting the most attention.
The turtle cloth appeared in the 'Nature' segment, which followed the 'Deep Sea Dreaming', 'Awakening' and 'Fire' segments. After 'Fire', the process of regeneration of the charred earth after rain was the basis of the colourful 'Nature' segment, directed by Peter Wilson. Fresh green shoots appeared, plants began to bloom, leaves grew along the branches of the eucalypt trees, as desert, bush and rivers came alive to the laugh of the kookaburra and the screeching of parrots. Dominant among the budding, swelling, ultimately blooming flowers were red waratahs, red and black Sturt's Desert peas, pink waterlilies and yellow banksias. Following them came pink and purple honey-myrtles, blue wildflowers and swamp daisies. As the lakes and waterholes of the inland filled, flocks of birds arrived to breed, and then Australia's unique animals came to visit-- the kangaroo, platypus, echidna, swan, lizard, frog, turtle and fish. These were depicted in Jeffrey Samuels' Indigenous designs on large cloth banners such as this one, effectively transforming the scene into his painting.
Through creative choreography and puppetry, and sequence after sequence of fresh new images, and a continuing fusion of colour, the stadium took on the look of a beautiful living garden. Through this great flowering landscape walked the Songman Djakapurra, stopping at a giant waratah to collect the Hero Girl, who was still dreaming.
Jeffery Samuels, 1999-2000 The artist Jeffrey Samuels was commissioned to create an original contemporary Indigenous painting of fauna for the Nature segment. Then images of a platypus, kangaroo, echidna, swan, frog, turtle, lizard and fish were hand-painted onto large silk banners, copying Samuels' original design.
Samuels was a founding member of Boomalli Aboriginal Artist Co- operative, an Aboriginal-owned and run contemporary art space in Sydney. Boomalli's mediums of art practice include painting, print- making, photography, new media, sculpture, fabric design and mixed media. Works displayed at Boomalli illustrate the complexity and diversity of black cultural life and provide an opportunity for the wider community to participate in contemporary Indigenous cultural expression.
Born in 1956, Samuels grew up in the far north-west of NSW at Carinda on various sheep properties. His artistic education includes a diploma in fine art from the Alexander Mackie College of Advanced Education and a City Art Institute Bachelor of Fine Art. A founding member of Boomalli, Samuels' influence has been critical to the development of the urban art environment.
Olympic ceremonies workshop, Eveleigh, Redfern, NSW, 2000 The silk was cut and sewn together to shape. Jeffrey Samuels' design image was then painted onto the cloth. The carry bag was then sewn to the centre of the cloth's underside. An aluminium tubular ring, of 600mm diameter, was made for each cloth as part of the 'feeding' process when pulled from the bag by performers.
Sydney 2000 Olympic Games opening ceremony, 'Nature' segment Stadium Australia, Sydney Olympic Park, Home Bush 15 September 2000 Each of the seven cloths based on Jeffrey Samuels' design was held by approximately 15 handlers, who shook the cloths to represent the animals' arrival.
Made for and owned by the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, and donated to the Powerhouse Museum after the Games.