Rolf mural to boost museum fund
AN ALMOST-forgotten and deteriorating 1978 Rolf Harris original mural in Nimbin could soon be placed on the market to help fund the village's struggling Hemp Museum.
Museum manager Michael Balderstone rescued the piece from going to the tip in 1990 and installed it in Rainbow Lane where it remains today.
Inspired by children's stream-of-conscious suggestions at the time it was painted, the highly unusual Harris original depicts the artist's own head being ripped off by a bird and Harry Butler, Australia's original high-profile naturalist being strangled by a snake.
Nimbin personality and poet David Hallett was there with Mr Balderstone on the day and remembers it well.
"It was a stinking hot day with a big crowd all around him and he asked the crowd what he should paint, so it was really the kids giving all these bizarre suggestions about Harry Butler being in there, and Rolf's head in the bird's mouth, and the snake being wrapped around Harry," he said.
"In the end I think Rolf stepped back, perhaps not horrified, but bemused by this strange, almost macabre cartoon-like painting.
"It endured on the street for a while then it was installed inside Nimbin Hall for some years.
"The problem with the painting was it was put together quickly with various panels so when it was moved, and moved again, parts broke in the process - but it's great that large central piece survives which has been in Rainbow Lane partially exposed for many years."
Confusion remains as to whether it was part of the 1978 Country and Eastern Bush Music Convention or the first Lismore Arts Festival.
Arts Festival organiser Graeme Dunstan believes it was the festival but could not be sure.
"As with all things Nimbin, they blur over time," he said.
"We were repainting the shop murals with Benny Zable at the time and got a sponsorship from Dulux so we had this mural theme going.
"Rolf was in town so we invited him up to be a part of it and he said okay; he was on television and was very popular in those days.
"We put it up on the side of the hall and as is his way he talked and painted, but then the hall committee immediately claimed it and said it was 'a piece of priceless art and belonged to them'. The town was somewhat divided then between the hippies and the straights and the straights said 'Rolf Harris is ours', whereas we thought he was a hippy."