Conceived by Creative Director Jan Black as a work of reconciliation, ‘The Cooktown Cantata - Botanical Reflections’ is a vocal chamber work which weaves together the stories of three individuals from our northern Australian history - Vera, Tulo and Banks.Libretto/Director Jan Black
Composer Louise Denson
Guugu Yimithir singer/songwriters Derek Rosendale and Dora Gibson Poet/artist Gaynor HooperSoprano Margaret Schindler as Vera
Guugu Yimithir singer/songwriter Derek Rosendale as Tulo
Baritone Jeffrey Black as Joseph Banks
Musicians: Louise Denson, Zac Sakrewski, Danielle Bentley, Flora Wong, Martin Kay, Diana Tolmie, Lucas Lynch (conductor)
Vera Scarth-Johnson, born in 1912, was an extraordinary English woman who settled in Cooktown in the 1970s and became an important figure there. Vera was a naturalist and botanical artist, conservationist and environmental activist. She created a series of paintings which depict the same iconic local flora that Joseph Banks collected during the ship Endeavour’s stay at Cooktown in 1770.
She subsequently joined the fight to keep Cooktown free of silicon sand-mining operations to protect the natural beauty of the area.Guugu Yimithirr Elder and Artist Tulo Gordon was a great friend of Vera’s, who would take her out into country to collect floral specimens. They painted together and shared a love and respect for nature as well as a recognition of its spiritual importance to humanity. In response to her work and place in the community, the Guugu Yimithirr referred to Vera as ‘Wauru Ngul-gu-rra’ (Innermost Beauty).
Joseph Banks was the naturalist on board Captain Cook’s Endeavour, whose influence on the world of western science was enduring and profound. His connection to Cooktown has been immortalized in the collection of drawings known as the Florilegium, the key inspiration for Vera’s artistic work.