I’ve spent the last week in Adelaide, a city known mostly for its picturesque parks, but I’ve come to discover there’s a lot more going on underneath its pretty façade. With an underlying rich history of the innovators of South Australia, public places turned into art on every corner and always more than one festival running at any one time, here’s how to soak up the best of what Adelaide has to offer.
Predictably in my quest to saturate myself with South Australian history my first stop was the Museum of South Australia. I was particularly interested in visiting because it is known to have the largest collection of Aboriginal Artefacts in Australia. It doesn’t disappoint and there’s also an informative exhibition that runs alongside it which gives you detailed information about different aboriginal tribes from different areas of Australia and how their customs and traditions vary from each other. You’ll also find some real life animals in the Discovery Centre if you’re brave enough (snakes, lizards and the like) and another Giant Squid exhibit. I think I’ve seen enough of these now to fill my nightmares forever.
A trip to the State Library of South Australia and their permanent free exhibition space in the Morlock Wing taught me how South Australia has been at the front and centre of social reforms such as the women’s suffrage movement and aboriginal land rights movement. In fact South Australia was the first place in the world to grant women the right to vote and run for office!
Continuing my quest to find out about the greatest women of South Australia I also stopped by Adelaide Cemetery. Now a cemetery isn’t a place I’d usually make a trip to when visiting a city but I’ve heard that this one was a little different – it’s actually been turned into a walking history lesson. Or perhaps several walking history lessons. At the entrance there are an array of pamphlets for self-guided walks around the cemetery with different themes. I took the Pioneering Women of South Australia trail and found myself stumbling across the graves of women from all walks of life including teachers, scientists, writers and activists who had a fundamental impact on South Australian society. Other walks you can take include one telling the story of everyday people through extraordinary events and one on burial beliefs and customs and how these have evolved. Although there are printed maps it can get a little confusing but luckily there are signposts on site leading the way! A really wonderful idea and a lovely tribute to the individuals celebrated.
My discovery about the Adelaide Cemetery trails came from a glance through the South Australia History Festival pamphlet. Although I believe the trails are available all year around you can actually get a guided tour on each of them at specific times of the day as part of the history festival. There were also a ton of other events and talks, many of them free, taking place at various venues around the city including the library and museum, as part of the programme.
I also stumbled across a poster display in the Adelaide Arcade celebrating South Australia through defining events in the last 180 years of its history, which is a display put on as part of the festival.
A wander through the central shopping district of Rundle Mall also drew my attention to the fact that I was in the midst of another Adelaide festival – the Living Colour Festival. Less something to get involved in and more something to appreciate, this festival attempts to bring colour to the city with injections of floral arrangements scattered around the centre by South Australian growers.
And when these are done? The Adelaide Cabaret Festival is next up in June and it’s already hard to go anywhere without the advertising reminding you about it. Adelaide certainly loves its festivals!
ART & ARCHITECTURE
Located conveniently next to the museum is the Art Gallery of South Australia. This is without a doubt one of my favourite state art galleries that I’ve visited in Australia so far because it includes a lot more modern artwork. I also love the way it is curated with the locations separated (ie Australian one side then European another) but then each room contains work relating to a theme rather than organised by time period. This means that in each room there’s a mix of modern and older work sitting alongside one another and it allows the viewer the directly compare and contrast how artists have related to different topics during different time periods.
At the time of visiting there were some excellent temporary exhibitions, including one of portrait photographs and one showcasing “curiosities” from the collection.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the street art hiding in the backstreet and around secret corners in Adelaide. It’s not anywhere near the amount as in Melbourne but there are some impressive pieces about if you’re willing to slow down and take a few detours.
One of my lasting impressions of Adelaide and the thing I’ve enjoyed most about the city is the mix of the old and new buildings. Lots of the older ones are so impressive that I’ve approached them expecting them to be some kind of museum or public space only to find they’re just the law courts or a university building. The University of Adelaide and University of South Australia next to the Museum and Art Gallery are absolutely beautiful and worth taking a few minutes to admire if you’re in the vicinity.
Of course this isn’t all I’ve been getting up to in Adelaide. I couldn’t stop by without taking a trip out to the Adelaide Hills but I think they warrant a post to themselves don’t you?