A new exhibition re-imagines Cook's view of this coast in 1770

VALLA ARTISTS: Poet John Bennett and painter/sculptor Bronwyn Rodden
VALLA ARTISTS: Poet John Bennett and painter/sculptor Bronwyn Rodden

NOT So Solitary is an exhibition that explores the heritage of the Solitary Islands Marine Park , where warm, tropical and cool waters meet, creating an incredible richness of life and creative inspiration.

The exhibition, which opens on May 14 at the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum, dovetails with East Coast Encounter, a travelling exhibition from the Sydney Maritime Museum at the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery, featuring re-imaginings by artists and writers of Captain Cook’s encounters with Aboriginal people in 1770.

The former is a smaller local version featuring local artists and writers, based on the Solitary Island Oral History Project driven by Nicola Johnstone.

Valla artists Bronwyn Rodden and John Bennett are part of the mix with John commissioned to write a poem about Cook passing this here for the first time and Bronwyn, to create a new linocut.

“I have done previous prints to illustrate stories of surfers and divers here in Valla,” Bronwyn said.

“This print is based on a story by Joseph Banks about the Indigenous people he saw … it is an imagined view from the ship of the coast.”

John’s poem shapes itself around journals Cook wrote about his first sightings of land in this region.

Following is an excerpt:

April 29:

“They sailed through a gap in sandstone cliffs 

Up to 40 metres high and landed below the southern headland bristling with Angophora costata.

The harbour beaches and coves were busy with men spearfishing from the shore and women fishing from their bark canoes.”

Not So Solitary opens on Sunday, May 14 with an Arts in the Garden afternoon at the museum, featuring blues songs about the islands by marine biologist Hamish Malcolm, Gumbaynggirr elder Mark Flanders, as well as John and Bronwyn.

The fun starts at noon until 4pm at the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum, Harbour Drive, Coffs Harbour.

Not so Solitary runs until June 24.

East Coast Encounter is at the Coffs Regional Gallery from April 28 to June 17.