The Liminality of Dusk

Hunters by Revel Cooper, pastel on paper, 29 x 38cm, c.1948. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Melvie, Stan and Gael Phillips, Berndt Museum of Anthropology, The University of Western Australia [1992/0114].

Owl in moonlight by Keith Indich, pastel on paper, 25 x 19cm, c.1949. H. Kahan Collection, 1951, Berndt Museum of Anthropology. [WU5834]

Owl in moonlight by Keith Indich, pastel on paper, 25 x 19cm, c.1949. H. Khan Collection, 1951, Berndt Museum of Anthropology, The University of Western Australia. [WU5834]

The Carrolup child artists appear to have been particularly fascinated with the liminality of dusk. That is, the period between day and night when the light gradually fades to become night; when the breeze settles and becomes stillness personified, and when colours become simply black and white.

When I was discussing the scenes of dusk with Parnell Dempster back in late 1992, he reminded me that the children had plenty of time to observe the progression from day through dusk to night. After all, they were locked in their respective dormitories by that time, and they would watch the falling night through the windows. He told me that they would often talk about the subtleties of dusk between themselves as they were observing the changing light.

No wonder it was a popular subject for their drawings: the creatures and smells of the day blending effortlessly into those of the night.

As a result, the child artists created a number of drawings depicting the bush at dusk, as well as the activities of animals and birds at night. The image of an owl silhouetted against the moon was a common theme, or a possum in a tree; or hunters (above) decorated in stripes of white body paint.

Reynold Hart, Parnell Dempster, Keith Indich, Milton Jackson, Cliff Ryder and Arthur Bropho each created such examples in their art.

The film clip below shows a dusk at Carrolup in more recent times (2007).

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