How Australian Street Art saved the nation from Hunger and Climatic changes: A lesson to Rwanda’s Empty Streets and Tourism
Across Australia, painted silos are turning fading rural communities into open-air galleries and are bringing a great fortune from tourism. It all started in 2015.
How did these particular paintings and graffiti on agricultural stock silos save thousands of lives in rural Australia?
They were at the time risking dying of hunger and others were forced to move out of those areas. It was all caused by drought and climate change effects. Life in rural Australia is not easier than many people think. Their main activities include livestock farming and Agriculture and it makes many neighboring communities to be displaced and miles away from each other. Their climate is complicated to farming, there might be many months between one rainfall season and another. This is the exact case for many African countries including Rwanda whose climatic experiences are becoming unfavorable crops.
The rural town named Thallon is one of the many good examples of how lives are complicated in rural Australia. Thallon has a population of 275 people and it is 355 miles(571 kilometers) from the town of Brisbane. It is a cotton and sheep farming community. In the 1990s a railway passenger project was stopped unfinished and made it harder to visit the area as the only way was to use a road route. This town is at risk of being wiped out by population decline and climate change effects. This is one of the many. In 2015, Thallon was standing on a rope and the community gathered to share ideas of what they can do to save the town. Leanne Brosnan, secretary of Thallon Progress Association said in an interview with The National Geographic Magazine that they first implemented an idea of building a six-foot(2 meters) statue of a hairy-nosed wombat and later in 2017, a massive 98 eight-foot-tall (35 meters) painting was done covering four joint grain silos. Reid, S. (2020, May 11).
It was done by two mural artists from Brisbane named Joel Fergie nicknamed Zookeeper, and Travis Vinson nicknamed Drap. The mural represents the nature of life in Thallon. It embodies a fiery sunset over a landscape on its upper horizon. The middle horizon has sheep, rainbow-hued rosella Parrots, and a scarred tree which is an important element in the community’s culture especially in stripping bark to make weapons. It took Zookeeper and Drap 21 days to finish the four 35 meter silos and a total of 500 cans of different spray paint colors.
This silo art was named “The watering hole”, and it was later named the best work of public art at the inauguration of the Australian Street Award in 2019. Reid, S. (2020, May 11).
How did this silo art save Thallon from hunger and Climate change effects then?
After finishing the art in 2017, they were also many other silos across Australian rural communities, especially in the Eastern part and Southern part. Tourists started to use their vans to travel and see the murals across Australia. Thallon became a tourist destination too, and they would spend some nights there, consuming tea and food at local pubs and they would even buy some decorative smaller art from the communities. Hope became a topic in the fallen Thallon. There are now around 40 painted silos by different well-known artists who are a majority of Aussies. They were painted in the past five years. The silo art route that forms an open outdoors gallery is 4700 miles(around 7520 km) along with five states in Australia.
How did this Australian silo art trail campaign start?
The idea of beautifying the outsized farm storages began in March 2015 in Western Australia when a cultural-non-profit organization called FORM WA engaged two world-renowned street artists Phlegm from the USA and HENSE from the United Kingdom. Their first paintings were on 118-foot tall CBH Group grain silos in the Wheatbelt region of Northam. Phlegm covered one end of grain silos in his iconic black and white style with early aviators and balloonists and HENSE covered the other end with colored abstract figures. Little did they know about the impact they were going to have on many rural Aussies’ lives.
This would bathe the nation with new energy and enthusiasm. It would also set a motion trend where people from different cities and nations get into their cars, caravans, motorhomes, and buses to what is now the best road trip in Australia. The first silo trail inspired the second one in the small country town of Brim, in the Wimmera-Mallee region of Victoria. The small town committee brought their familiar Australian artists Guido Van Helten and painted the silos in a monochromatic style which he later his signature. At this time they were only two silos painted. The next year in 2016, the other three were completed in different regions. These regions are Ravensthorpe in Western Australia, Patchewollock, and Sheep Hills in the Wimmera-Mallee region of Victoria. In 2017, the silos became 14 as nine others were completed in different regions. The following years marked a rise in silos done as many communities were now engaged in the process. The Australian silo art trail movement had now spread across five states namely Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria. New South Wales and Queensland.
This movement is an outcome of the cooperation between grain-growing cooperatives, the CBH Group which provides their grain and farming stock silos as canvases, and FORM, a cultural-non-profit. At the time they started the trial movement they had no governmental support and were told to look up solutions themselves. The silo art trail was one of their many artistic approaches to solve the climatic problems they were facing with their agricultural and farming practices. Their main challenges at the time were many, but the main ones were two. To map out a logical driving route that combines all the trails and makes sense to road trippers when wanting to visit these areas and to find solutions of protecting the paintings from climatic conditions like moisture and winds that would erase the paints.
Guido van Helten’s climatic change escaping mechanism was to wake up before dawn, and work till 11 a.m. and go back there tonight (see the picture below). He used spray paints that risked slowly dry due to moisture, wind, and uncomfortable weather and he managed it by shifting working hours.
It is nowadays easier to get pictures, route maps, and others regarding the silo trails online. It all started in 2018 when a couple of two “grey nomads” from Western Australia were on a fishing trip in their coaster to see a silo trail in Tumby Bay, South Australia. After liking the silo painted by Ron Martin showing two boys jumping into the ocean(see picture below), the couple decided to continue and see more.
The unavailability of the silo arts information made them create a Facebook group about the silos and they were very amazed at how they connected dots and succeeded in documenting the trials on a national level. In 2019, they created a website and other social media accounts called “Australian Silo Art Trail” and documented all the silo arts with the artist’s information and they added other important arts that can help tourists and people on the journey to see the arts. Some of those works are bigger murals and other smaller crafts and can also add another dimension to the journey. Reid, S. (2020, May 11).
The website also documents the economic impact of the silos on the rural communities and the progress that is being made. An example is the small town of Grenfell, which is 224 miles(358km) from the west of Sydney where its number of visitors increased by 54% from 2019 since it got a silo.
Even though many of the areas with silos were not affected by bushfires, they still face drought and other climatic problems but thanks to their idea of making the silos which are now sustaining their lives and bringing back the investment to bring other new and innovative technologies to save their agricultural-based lives. Silos in Australia are now inspiring many silos in Europe and IN the USA, and they are a big part of the culture in particular cities especially for economic purposes and self-expression of the rural communities.
What is the hint of what Rwanda’s Tourism can learn from these Australian silo art trails?
Rwanda has some notable street arts mainly around its capital but little is known about its appreciation. Rwanda’s tourism is boosting due to the Made in Rwanda campaign that involves promoting made in Rwanda products and services with the help of advertisement from world-renown football teams Paris-Saint Germain And Arsenal. Many of Rwanda’s visited areas’ contents and nature are fixed(five historical Museums, three parks, and a few other natural places) which reduces the chances of re-attracting tourists who have already visited.
The gold to boost Rwanda’s tourism industry and ensure its sustainability is hidden in putting many efforts into developing local tourism and talents especially artistic ones. Diversity and inclusion will be brought and will be significant in boosting the Tourism economy and in reducing the gap found between the national tourism economy the local tourism economies. As a growing economy in Africa with many challenges, is it still sustainable to rely only on Nature-based tourism? What approaches can be put in place to ensure a sustainable touristic efficiency based on both local and national tourism?
Australian silo art trail. (n.d.). Australian silo art trail. Australian silo art trail. Retrieved 03 28, 2021, from https://www.australiansiloarttrail.com/about
Melbourne city. (n.d.). Silo art trail. visit Melbourne. Retrieved 03 28, 2021, from https://www.visitmelbourne.com/Things-to-do/Touring-routes/Silo-Art-Trail-Touring-Route
Reid, S. (2020, May 11). Wallabies. Cowboys. Street artists land in Australia’s outback. National Geographic. Retrieved 03 28, 2021, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/in-australia–rural-grain-silos-became-public-art