WANTED: Museum/Galleries/Cultural Centres/Festivals keen to host “Rainbow Dreaming”, a photo-documentary on the sustainability movement in Australia and it’s global significance in a world on the brink of change!

May 28, 2010 Leave a comment

“Rainbow Dreaming: Tales from the Age of Aquarius”

Rainbow Dreaming” is a multi-media photo-documentary exhibition that explores the growth and development of the alternative movement in the ‘rainbow region’ of Australia, centred around the towns of Nimbin and Byron Bay in north-eastern New South Wales.

This photo-documentary maps out the cultural and spiritual legacy of the movement and the ideas and institutions it gave birth to, including: recognition of the resurgence of traditional Aboriginal culture; living in community in harmony with the land; environmental activism; appropriate technology; holistic health; and the synthesis of science, art and philosophy. A sample of the exhibit can be seen at http://www.rainbowdreaming.org

This site offers a taste of a multi-media exhibition that comprises the work of over one hundred photographers, filmmakers, writers, poets, children and cultural visionaries.

This vision, first articulated as a cultural phenomenon in the sixties, has an even greater relevance to our world today. “Rainbow Dreaming” explores the evolution of a culture committed to peace and sustainable living in a world on the brink of change.

This exhibit was invited to participate in the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock celebrations in the US in 2009, as part of a cultural exchange from the ‘rainbow region’. The exhibit featured at:

1. Ecofest, the largest environmental festival on the east coast of the US, held in Central Park, New York, on 5th Oct.

2. New York’s 13th Harvestfest & Freedom Rally, Hancock, 9th – 11th Oct.

3. Woodstock Museum, Saugerties, NY, 16th – 17th Oct.

4. West Fest: Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, 25th Oct.

The exhibit comprises:

1. 64 exhibition panels, size A1. The exhibit is weather resistant and can be set up in diverse spaces, indoors and outdoors.

2. A video archive, a music CD and a book.


Due to Australia’s special relationship with Japan, we are working on touring this exhibit to Japan – with text in Japanese – in 2011.

We would love to tour this exhibit to other countries  internationally in 2012.

2012 marks a year of prophesied millennial change and Rainbow Dreaming paints a colourful mosaic of a culture that embraces this future with open arms.

Please direct your expressions of interest to:

Harsha Prabhu/Co-curator

“Rainbow Dreaming”



This project is auspiced by Byron Community & Cultural Centre (www.byroncentre.com.au) & assisted by Lismore Regional Gallery (www.lismoregallery.org)


Marrying Hemp with Electronics

March 13, 2010 Leave a comment

We are looking at innovative ways to design and produce an international exhibition, using hemp and electronics.

We are into telling stories: stories about sustainability, about a grassroots culture in NSW, Australia. Know as the ‘rainbow region’ , this culture has been quietly experimenting with sustainable models for the last four decades. You can see some of the stories at http://www.rainbowdreaming.org

We are looking to share these stories with others, in the form of a touring exhibit. We are looking for eco friendly and innovate ways to present this exhibit.

Do you have any information on companies/manufacturers who are producing and printing books on high-end hemp paper and hemp exhibition panels?

Also companies willing to supply/sponsor us with A3 size touch screens to facilitate text in several languages as part of the traveling exhibit? Ideally, the touch screens should be made from hemp or some other biodegradable/eco friendly material.

At the mo, we are looking at touring Rainbow Dreaming to Japan in 2011, with tours to other countries to follow.

Any suggestions?


Harsha Prabhu


Rainbow Dreaming



Rainbow Bridge to Japan

March 3, 2010 1 comment

RAINBOW BRIDGE TO JAPAN _DRAFT, updated Sunday 14th March 2010

Proposal: This is a proposal to set up sister village/city links between communities/towns in the rainbow region of New South Wales, Australia and like-minded towns in Japan.

The focus of this link will be to promote peace and sustainability issues within the context of the Australia-Japan relationship.

This is in keeping with our mutual strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific, both short, medium and long term.


  1. To foster better understanding between communities and people in our two countries, based on direct community-to-community links, including local government/shire council, arts organizations, educational institutions, NGO’s devoted to sustainability and peace studies and individual exchanges.
  2. To promote linkages between industry groups in the field of sustainability and eco tourism: eg linkages between Japanese traditional hemp industry and North Coast hemp; between Japan and north coast marine eco tourism
  3. To encourage cooperation on marine conservation issues
  4. To promote eco tourism and cultural tourism
  5. To promote friendship and peace between Australia and Japan


Australia and Japan share may ties: economic, social and political.

Economic: Japan is Australia’s second largest trading partner.

Social (focusing on the rainbow region): There are many Japanese living and working in the rainbow region, concentrated in the areas of the sustainability industries, yoga, the arts and eco tourism. Lismore City Council already has a link with Yamatotakada, Nara Prefecture. Many artists from the Byron region have toured Japan (Wild Marmalade, Tommee) and artists from Japan have visited the shire (Goma, Spinna Bill). Most recently, a Japanese crew from the rainbow region were a key element of the recent cultural exchange exhibit Rainbow Dreaming, which featured at venues in the US last year, as part of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.

Political: Both Australia and Japan are dynamic democracies in the Asia-Pacific, with a progressive role to play in the shaping of our common futures.

Current Situation:

The current impasse over whaling and the related issue of dolphin killings in Japan has led to a tense situation between Australia and Japan.

As you are aware, Broome (in West Australia) and Taiji had a sister city link. Broome cut this link due to the issue of the dolphin killings in Taiji.

The current environmental battles with Sea Shepherd and the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic whaling sanctuary has also led to a mini crisis in Australia-Japan relations.

This matter has also been raised on a Govt-to-Govt level, with the Australian Govt indicating that they are willing to pursue this issue in the international court.

While all of the above strategies to protect whales and dolphins are important and valid in themselves, we feel a direct approach to Japanese people on these issues might be a good way to progress down the path of reconciliation and understanding.

The key to understanding:

One way to foster this reconciliation is to set up alternative sister village links, based on principals of mutual respect and shared values, especially around issues to do with sustainability and peace.

If Byron Bay, a beacon of progressive ideas, on the easternmost point of Australia, is able to set up this alternative ‘rainbow bridge’ to a community/village/town in Japan, this will greatly help the process of reconciliation. Further, as Byron was till recently a whaling town, Byron is uniquely placed to explore issues to do with promoting the internationally popular whale-and-dolphin eco tourism industry as an economically sustainable alternative.

Ditto for Nimbin, a leader in sustainability issues, including environmental protection, permaculture and hemp as an alternative industrial fiber.

A focus on peace and sustainability is the key that will unlock the present impasse and point to better relations in the future.


The Rainbow Collective is working on sending a Japanese edition of Rainbow Dreaming to Japan in 2011. (see www.rainbowdreaming.org) The text of the exhibit – which has a strong focus on sustainability and environmental issues in general, including stories on the campaigns to protect marine creatures – will be translated into Japanese. It is designed to appeal to the hearts and minds of Japanese people. This exhibit can be a vehicle to set up the proposed sister village link.

(An earlier edition of this exhibit, titled ‘Some Children of the Dream’, was instrumental in setting up the sister village link between Nimbin & Woodstock in 1995. Please note that Benny Zable (Nimbin) and Shelli Lipton & Nathan Koenig (Woodstock Museum) worked on this link for years, but it was only after we sent the Some Children of the Dream exhibit to Woodstock in the mid-nineties, that this dream became a reality. Many cultural exchanges have ensured over the years. The latest was the Rainbow Dreaming exhibit representing the rainbow region in a cultural exchange in Oct 2009 in connection with the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.

This cultural exchange will facilitate other such exchanges in the future, including sister exhibitions from Japanese cultural organizations and exchanges between other organizations in the arts, science and sustainable industries.

Possible sister cities/villages:

Nimbin and Miasa Mura

Miasa Mura, located in the Japanese Northern Alps in Nagano prefecture, has a population of about 1500 people today. In the year Meiji 8 (1875) it received its name meaning “beautiful hemp village” in recognition of its long tradition of producing Hemp, which has been grown here since the Yayoi period, 2000 years ago. Miasa has a tradition of making fine hemp paper and other products. Miasa also has a Hemp Museum. (Pl note we are talking about industrial hemp, not hemp as a psychoactive substance). Miasa has a sister link with Mendocino, California, USA.

Nimbin has been at the forefront of promoting hemp as a sustainable industry. We are proposing a re-exploration of traditional Japanese hemp expertise, married to modern needs and technology, to kick-start the industrial hemp revolution. Hemp is THE sustainable fiber of the future!

Byron Bay and Shonan/Kochi/Shimoda

There are three possible sites that have been suggested:

1. The Shonan area. Shonan is near Yokohama.

Shonan has a strong surf, environmental and art focus.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sh%C5%8Dnan


Saya Minami, our tour representative, is exploring links with this area and will get back to us with more info.

2. Kochi in Shikoku

They too have a focus on surfing, organic markets, industrial hemp and the arts

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C5%8Dchi_Prefecture

Sayaka Nakao, our technical consultant, is visiting the area in mid March and will get back to us with more info.

3. Shimoda, Shizuoka

Shimoda has beautiful beaches,  surf culture and music plus organic grassroots culture

Shimoda info:


Iritahama was voted most beautiful beach in Japan.

Shimoda is linked with Newport, Rhode Island, USA

In addition, Emi Iizuka, our representative (Byron Bay/Tokyo) will be visiting Tokyo in early March and she will be meeting with venues and groups to set up the groundwork for the rainbow bridge.


This project is a community cultural initiative of the Rainbow Collective, under the auspices of Byron Community & Cultural Centre. We are seeking to partner with other like-minded cultural organizations (e.g. Lismore Regional Gallery); educational institutions (e.g. Southern Cross University); NGOs in the area of sustainability (e.g. Djanbung Gardens); businesses devoted to sustainable industries (eg Rainbow Power Co.); business groups (eg Nimbin Chamber of Commerce/Byron United) and cultural tourism bodies.

We are also seeking partnerships in Japan.


We are seeking funding from the Australia-Japan Foundation to pay for costs associated with preparing and touring Rainbow Dreaming to venues in Japan in 2011.

The deadline for the Aus-Japan Foundation grant is 17th March.

Your thoughts and ideas on the above would be appreciated.


  1. Ongoing cultural exchanges between northern New South Wales (Byron Bay-Nimbin) and Japanese sister villages
  2. Joint partnerships in the area of sustainable industry, eg industrial hemp, marine conservation; eco tourism

3.  Facilitation of resolution of issues to do with marine conservation

4.  Eco tourism and cultural tourism benefits to both Australia and Japan

5. Better understanding between our peoples based on shared interests, sustainability and peace


1. Please network this email to any groups/individuals that you think may be interested.

2. If you support the idea of the Rainbow Bridge to Japan, please indicate your support by emailing us on your official letterhead, PDF preferred. Deadline:  17th March.

Kind regards,

Harsha Prabhu


for Rainbow Collective



This project is auspiced by Byron Community & Cultural Centre and assisted by Lismore Regiona Gallery

Letters of support have been received from: Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell, Nimbin Chamber of Commerce, Byron United, Byron Neighbourhood & Resource Centre, Nimbin Neighbourhood & Information Centre, Nimbin Environment Centre, Northern Rivers Hemp

Rainbow Bridge Japan team:

Emi Iizuka, representative, Byron Bay-Tokyo

Saya Minami, representative, Byron Bay-Tokyo

Sayaka Nakao, Tech Consultant, Tokyo

Nami Matsumoto, Translation Consultant, Byron Bay-Tokyo

Max Ferguson, Desktop Guru

Lelli Brown, Designer

Hans Lovejoy, Media

Benny Zable, Nimbin ambassador to Woodstock

Graeme Batterbury/ Harsha Parbhu, Co-curators

A Fairy Tale of New York

February 15, 2010 Leave a comment
Blog 1 on the Rainbow Dreaming US tour. Rainbow Dreaming is a photodocumentary on the alternative culture of the rainbow region of NSW, Australia. See more at http://www.rainbowdreaming.org

Lords of the Material Universe
The first signs were auspicious. At Brisbane airport, waiting to catch the flight out to LA, we bumped into Elizabeth Thorpe and Debbie Lee. Elizabeth and her partner Ray, proprietors of Happy High Herbs, were the principal sponsors of Rainbow Dreaming and Lee, artist and designer, is an old connection from Nimbin. Elizabeth and Lee were headed for USA to open Happy High’s first US store, in Arizona. And Hans and myself were headed for New York, bringing with us the stories and pictures of life in the rainbow region.
From the plane, the New York nightscape glowed and flickered like some gigantic circuit board. “The lords of the material universe have nice real estate here”, said Hans. Towers of ivory, streets of gold. Would the lords be kind to us? Would they let me in, with my Indian passport? At immigration, there was a blip: Had my passport ever been stolen? Why was it registered as Australian? The question in my head went something like: So this is what it feels to be at the mercy of dodgy databanks and the mood of the assessment officer. But it turned out ok. After a few questions, Officer Pena waived me through.
Did I have anything to declare, the customs man asked? Don’t touch my bag if you please, I have a haversack full of rainbow dreams, I mused to myself.
At the airport, the smiling face of Benny Zable, waiving a rainbow flag, greeted us. Benny, Nimbin’s ambassador to Woodstock, was the kingpin in the rainbow bridge to Woodstock and beyond. Benny had arranged for us to stay in Brooklyn, at the studio of Traci Mann, a New York tap dancer. Disoriented by jet lag, Hans had left his laptop on the airport bus. That first night, with the El roaring past our window, we fell into a troubled sleep, woken by the clatter of the El and the cries of children at the daycare centre below.

Through a Glass

Our first pilgrimage in New York was to the Yippie Museum in Greenwich Village. The Village was the bohemian hangout par excellence in the sixties. It still has a funky, if gentrified, look. Jazz bars and restaurants dot the streets. The Yippie Museum resembles the Nimbin Museum, with a stage for performances. One night, we caught some fine performance poetry. It’s the headquarters of New York’s hemp legalization campaign. They knew about Nimbin. They were also involved with a global linkup of cities for 2010. 1st Oct saw the launch of Mark Roselle’s book “Tree Spiker”. Mark Roselle is the founder of Rainforest Action Network. He’s also the man who infiltrated a Nevada test site. The day was also Benny’s birthday, Benny, an agent provocateur with his rainbow flags. The Yippie Museum was a happening place, true to it’s name of promoting green(sic) issues through direct action.
It took us a while to work out what ‘uptown’ & ‘downtown’ meant in the subway, but we had worked it out by the time we left New York! Hans slipped out one night for a dose of jazz; the girls went on a harbour cruise; Benny was beavering away at the Ecofest office. My jet lag meant that I saw the city as if through a glass darkly. One image remains: a black, immaculately dressed saxplayer, doing “In a Sentimantl Mood” in the subway at 50th St.


The Ecofest office, off Broadway, was a hive of activity, presided over by Nanci Callahan, queen bee and director/producer of New York’s signature ecological fair, now in it’s 21st year. We walked to Central Park to check out the site for this year’s Ecofest, passing Strawberry Fields and ‘Imagine’, the mosaic tribute to John Lennon. On park benches huddled New York’s homeless, shrouded in grey, under the shadows of the tall towers ringing the park. The Dakota apartments where Lennon had been shot were across the street. “Yoko Ono pays for the maintenance of this section of the park and the homeless are permitted to sleep here,” Benny explained. I thought of our homeless in Byron, chased from bus shelters, their beach humpies a mark for rangers. In this instance, New York seemed to have a heart.
Sunday 4th Oct was a fine day. The Ecofest site began to fill up with vedors and exhibitors, including the latest hybrid cars from Toyota and Ford. We had been assigned the outer wall of the conference tent to set up the Rainbow Dreaming exhibit. Space restrictions meant only half the exhibit could be accommodated. We punched holes into the exhibition panels and strung them out on twine like washing on a line. It worked! Sayaka Nakao, Rina Terasaki and Saya Minami, our Japanese friends from Byron Bay, who had flown in the previous day via Tokyo to help with the exhibition tour, assisted us in this improvisatory task. Ever enthusiastic, our petite helpers were worth their weight in gold. Hans and I would have struggled to manage the show on our own.
Over 25,000 visitors streamed through Ecofest that day and, as we were positioned at the entrance, many of these stopped by to check the exhibit. Among these was Nirmala, Gina Lakosta’s daughter, who was in New York to perform a burlesque show, under the stage name La Viola Vixen. Another was a couple from Goonengerry, amazed to stumble upon a slice of life from the rainbow region in the heart of New York. Tap dancers, including the amazing Mabel Lee, Traci Manns’s former teacher, all of 80; soul singers; stiletto heeled models strutting eco fashions; Rick Ulfik from We the World, the global peace network; Parrots for Peace from the Amazon rainforest; ending with a sing along with Pete Seeger, 90 years old and still singing his peace and environmental anthems.
The sun shone down on Benny Zable’s rainbow flags; children fed ducks in the pond; whole families happily picnicked under the trees; frisbees flew in the air. Catching the last of the sunset, the tall towers seemed to shower us with riches and green fields became fields of gold. The evening ended with drumming. Three drum circles – Cuban, Haitian and African – rang out in the Park. The moon was full and so were our hearts.

Postscript: Hans’ laptop, lost on our first night, was returned to him by the New York City Transport Authority on our last morning in New York, in a fairy tale ending to our stay in the Big Apple!

Benny Zable, Gloria from Parrot’s for Peace and friends @ Ecofest, Central Park, NYC, Oct 4th. The Rainbow Dreaming exhibit is in the background.
Pic: Hans Lovejoy

Rainbow Dreaming crew with Nanci Callahan @ 21st ECOFEST 2009, Central Park, New York

Van Gets Ripped, or The Sleep of Unreason

February 15, 2010 Leave a comment
This is Blog 2 on the Rainbow Dreaming US tour, taking in New York’s 13th Harvest Festival & Freedom Rally, Hancock, NY; and Woodstock Museum, Saugerties, NY. Rainbow Dreaming is a photodocumentary on the alternative culture of the rainbow region of NSW, Australia. See more at http://www.rainbowdreaming.org
Harvest Fest

Marijuana legalization activists and their supporters on the East coast were to meet at Camp Minglewood in the Catskills, a couple of hours north of New York, for the Harvest Festival & Freedom Rally, on 9 Oct. It was an opportunity too good to be missed. Our hosts from the Woodstock Museum, Shelli Lipton and Nathan Koenig, had booked us a spot at the Festival. They had also booked us into a bunkhouse, with 10 bunk beds. By now we had mushroomed to a party of 10.

It wasn’t pot, but potties that preoccupied us the three days we were there. The toilets were blocked. Much time and energy was spent agonizing over the situation and negotiating the portaloos well before the happy horde that had descended on the Camp trashed them every morning.

Harvest Fest, the child of Hemp activist and performance poet Rob Robinson, was now in its thirteenth year. The legal situation with pot in the US is complex and confusing. Some states (California) allow the medical use of marijuana. Others will bust you for possessing rolling papers. The talk at the Camp was all about the bust of a long-time hemp activist, who had been caught with a whole lot of pot that he was bringing to the festival. Regardless, the pot was plentiful.

From pot to politics. I met Kurt Shotko, a member of the Greens party. Kurt was of the opinion that the Republicans and Democrats were cut from the same cloth, manufactured by big business. “Look at what Obama’s doing in Afghanistan. He’s sending more Americans to die there. We need an alternative to the main players. We’ve got to wake up to the reality that the American dream has been a nightmare for a lot of Americans and for the rest of the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have been asleep for too long. We need a revival of common sense. Only a massive program of self education is going to do it.” Then he quoted from the Populist Program, published in 1892: “They propose to sacrifice our homes, lives and children on the altar of mammon; to destroy the multitude in order to secure corruption funds for the millionaires.” 1892! The sleep of unreason had been a long one.

But Kurt was hopeful of the next generation. That’s why he set up camp at festivals across the US. And that’s partly why we were there too.

The Rainbow Dreaming exhibit was attached to a wall in the main music hall. Thus many, mostly young, punters got to see the exhibit. This was where The Wailers played on Saturday. I caught the Wailers when they played in Byron and I’m happy to report that they are still wailing away.

But what struck me most about the music at Harvest Fest was the pervasive influence of the Grateful Dead, the legendary sixties psychedelic band from San Francisco. From Cabinet, an established US indi band that played the main stage, to camp fire songs at 4 am, the Dead were everywhere, on so many t shirts and stickers, in so many riffs and improvisatory moments, as a psychedelic glint in so many eyes.

I spoke with Jane, an artist from New York, who had a stall selling Dead memorabilia. She had grown up in San Francisco and was still a Deadhead. Her eyes misted when she spoke of Jerry Garcia: “You could see so much love pouring out of him. It was a love affair that lasted and lasted and it’s still going strong even when he’s gone.”

Minglewood Moment: across from the festival site, two lovers sit on the steps of a boat ramp. The dying sun paints purple tints on the tops of the maple and elm; waterfowl break the surface of the lake. A band is playing the Dead’s “China Cat Sunflower.”

Woodstock: The Town that Time Forgot

In Rip Van Winkle, Washington Irving’s story, a man who wanders off into the Catskill Mountains, meets some rather strange companions who serve up a suspiciously heady brew, and falls asleep under a tree. When he wakes up, he finds that some 20 years have gone by and his world has changed.

The town of Catskill is 30 minutes away from Woodstock. Some 40 years have gone by after the infamous Woodstock festival of 1969. And the world has changed since those heady days. But walking around Woodstock, the town that gave a name to the festival, (which happened in the neighbouring town of Bethel, some 100 kms away), you could be forgiven for believing that it’s still in the thrall of those halcyon days of hippiedom.

Our first port of call was the Woodstock Town Board meeting that night. Benny Zable, Nimbin’s ambassador to Woodstock, presented letters from Nimbin and the crew made a presentation on the Rainbow Dreaming exhibit and its relevance to the whole Woodstock legacy. The meet was dominated by a spirited discussion over rezoning issues, something very familiar to us on the north coast. Would Woodstock go the way of other small towns and be besieged by rampant development, or would it stay true to its alternative legacy?

That night we also visited the Bearsville Cultural Centre (set up by Albert Grossman, one-time manager of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and The Band) and Alchemia Café to catch some live music, including a spirited set by Adam, a young musician we had met at the Byron market drum circle!

Guided around by Benny, on our very first day in Woodstock, we met some representatives of Woodstock’s hippie past: Jogger John, the local village savant, who used to jog everywhere, but, due to his advanced age is now is on a bike; Day A, the village barber, who runs a soup kitchen for the Rainbow Family in town; Grandpa and Grandma Woodstock, an elderly couple, dressed the part, almost town mascots. Woodstock itself is full of funky cafes and art galleries. Turn a corner and spy a Zen garden, complete with waterfall and pergola.

In the centre of Woodstock town is the village green and the peace pole, with peace messages in several languages. We bumped into Fr John, a priest and peace activist. When he heard that two of our crew, Sayaka Nakao and Rina Terasaki, were from Tokyo, he beamed at them and said: “ Let’s set up a peace link between Woodstock and Tokyo. All it takes is five people. Five is the magic number. Can you find five friends in Tokyo who may be interested?”

Fr John also runs the Hippie Church, on the hill overlooking Woodstock. This was the very church where Bob Dylan was rumored to have married the love of his life, Sarah, his sad eyed lady of the lowlands. The church wears the patina of age, its icons fading in the dim, dank light streaming through stained glass windows.

In stark contrast is the Buddhist monastery next door. Set up in 1975, the monastery is linked to the 10th century Tibetan Kagyu lineage. Its halls are huge and lushly decorated with tankas, its massive Buddha is gold-painted, its prayer lamps cast a beatific glow on meditating monks and visitors; its gift shop bulges with merchandise, all a tribute to Buddhism’s growing influence in the new world.


The next morning, my very first snowflakes, fine and feathery. It was too cold to venture out. Emi Iizuka and Simeon Michaels, both from Byron, had joined us in Woodstock. We were toasty warm at the Woodstock Museum, hosted by Shelli and Nathan. Under the tutelage of Shelli, the sacred Indian corn was brought out and inspected. Purple, yellow, orange, red and black, this was authentic Hopi corn. The girls played with the corn silk, good for medicinal tea and dress ups, fake moustaches and beards. They were transformed into imaginary characters, magical beings, the warrior princesses of Genghis Khan, dressed as men to pass unnoticed amidst the ripening corn. Shelli makes beautiful corn necklaces, a craft she learnt from Rainbow Weaver, a Mohawk Clan Mother.

Nathan spoke about the connection between the Hopi and the Tibetans. “Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, said: When the iron bird flies and the horses run on wheels the Tibetans will be scattered over the face of the earth and the dharma will come to the land of the red man.”

Nathan went on: “The Hopi’s felt that this might have something to do with the dharma coming to the US. They have prophesies too. After the swastika and the sun, there would be another force, symbolized by the colour red. This force will wear a red cloak or red cap. Spiritual wisdom will come from the East. This spirituality must spread. If that does not take root, others with the red symbol will invade from the West and crawl over the land in one day. The Hopis think this could be the ‘red’ Chinese.”
“When the Tibetan Karmapa visited Hopiland in 1974, he said: We must have know each other before; your features, ceremonies and way of life are similar to our own. When we bought Hopis to the monastery in Woodstock in 1979, the two cultures again recognized each other, and the Hopis said that the Tibetans may very well be the long lost brother who left them at the beginning of time and went to the other side of the earth to balance the earth spiritually.”

Said Shelli: “When the shit hits the fan, we won’t survive unless we cooperate with each other. That’s also what the Hopi prophecies speak of. The Hopis are known as the ‘peaceful ones’.”

While we spoke of prophecies, outside, in the gathering gloom, Tiago Guimaraes, a Brazilian artist, was busy carving out a statue of a man with a guitar, the quintessential hippie hitchhiker, his hand raised, his fingers flashing the peace sign.

The Rainbow Dreaming opening at the Woodstock Museum on Sat 17 Oct was a modest yet sweet affair: local musos were in attendance and we joined the members of the Woodstock drum circle in a bongothon. The highlight of the evening was meeting Elliot Landy, the famous Woodstock photographer. Elliot was all praise for the exhibit, gave away signed copies of his book to all the crew and offered to help us find a publisher for a book on the exhibition. The last act of the day was raising the sculpture of the hippie hitchhiker and placing him on his pedestal: a symbol of Woodstock’s hippie past and a pointer to its uncertain future as a cultural pilgrimage centre.

On our last evening in Woodstock, we participated in the Woodstock Earth drum circle. Some 30 drummers were gathered in the backyard at Day A’s house. In summer, the drummers gather at the village green and spill out onto the road. As the sound of the drums rose over the autumn dusk, we were again reminded of how lucky we were with our vibrant culture of communal drumming and dancing in the rainbow region.

Last days in New York: the Bangladeshi cigarette sellers; the African rickshaw pullers in Central Park; the old men and women carting large bundles of recyclable cans and bottles; the man in Times Square offering to sell me a 15 carat gold ring or Obama condoms. While the crew went shopping and sightseeing I wandered back to Central Park. More than the statue of Liberty, than Ground Zero, than the suicide gulches and canyons of Wall Street, I was drawn to the spot with the Imagine mosaic and tribute to John Lennon. Park benches line the walkway, each with its dedication. I sat there, amidst the touros and derros, as the shadows lengthened. Then I saw these lines from Dylan Thomas, carved on a park bench: “Though lovers be lost love shall not; And death shall have no dominion.”

Rainbow Dreaming crew @ Harvestfest: Benny Zable, Sayaka Nakao, Harsha Prabhu, Saya Minami, Rina Terasaki, Hans Lovejoy

Grandma & Grandpa Woodstock watch over the best buds competition, Harvest Fest, Camp Minglewood, NY, 10 Oct
Pic: Harsha
Rainbow Dreamers Simeon & Emi at the Hippie Church, Woodstock, 18 Oct
Pic: Hans Lovejoy

The Beat Goes On!

February 15, 2010 Leave a comment
This is Blog 3 on the Rainbow Dreaming tour of the US, which started in Oct 2009 in New York and ended in San Francisco. Rainbow Dreaming is an exhibition on the alternative movement in the rainbow region of New South Wales. For more info see http://www.rainbowdreaming.org

Welcome Home!

“Smile, you are in San Francisco”, said the black baggage handler at the airport.

“Welcome home”, said Canyon, a native American activist, giving us all a big hug. We were at the last planning meeting before Westfest, billed as the 40th anniversary of Woodstock mega free concert in Golden Gate Park. The meet was held in a large warehouse, packed to the rafters with Westfest vendors and supporters. Boots Hughston, artist and impresario and the producer of Westfest, ran the meeting with panache. The Rainbow Dreaming crew – now down to Hans, Emi, Sim and myself, our gracious helpers Sayaka, Saya and Rina having left for Tokyo – were given a rousing reception. After the meet, many folks came over to greet us. They plied us with invitations, Westfest merchandise, gifts of ganja, and questions about the exhibit.

Before Woodstock in 1969, way before anything of consequence emerged on the east coast, it was San Francisco that was the spiritual and temporal home of the alternative scene in the US. San Francisco, city of St Francis, patron saint of all creatures great and small and the holy land to every hippie who ever dreamt of wearing flowers in their hair.

Falling Waters

But before we plunged into San Francisco and Westfest, we went on a little trip: Yosemite National Park, 250 kms by road from San Fran. The trip was Emi’s idea. Honesty demands that I admit I was a reluctant passenger. I wanted to hang out in the Haight, not spend seven hours in a hire car on the highway. But the Haight would have to wait. Here was an opportunity to get away from everything – the manufactured world of men and cities. I’m glad that beautiful Emi won me over.

The climb up the Sierra Nevada and down into the Yosemite valley is stunningly spectacular. Forests of oak and pine, opening out into vistas of glaciated grandeur: vast cathedrals of granite, 2400ft waterfalls, towering spurs and cliff faces, altars fit for giants.

This was the great American photographer Ansel Adams’ playground. Adams first came to Yosemite as a 14 year old with a Box Brownie. He was to spend three decades living, working and photographing the place. He spoke of “the primal song of the wilderness—the whisper of silver winds in the lonely forest–the hollow chant of falling waters.” Adam’s photographs of the Yosemite landscape are iconic images that helped create the idea of wilderness as something worth “saving” in the popular imagination. His photos were used in campaigns by the Sierra Club.

Nothing could save the Ahwahnee, the original inhabitants. They fell victim to the California gold rush and the state militia in the 1850s. Their broken plinths and abandoned hearths speak of a desolation beyond words. The sunset dyed the canyon deep red, then dark crimson. The lights of climbers bivouacked on the cliff face for the night flickered in the gathering dark as we left the valley.

Hippie Hill

From the Trips Festival, to the Human Be In, to the Summer of Love in 1967, San Fran was where it was all happening. And Haight-Ashbury, a genteel, seedy, low rent neighbourhood on the edge of Golden Gate Park, was, for a short time in that golden, paisley and psychedelic-hued year, the counter culture capital of the world.

Haight-Ashbury today resembles a counter culture tourist arcade, peppered with boutiques and headshops selling all manner of things hippie. It also boasts two excellent bookshops, a generous music store and restaurants with character.

Paul, owner of Land of the Sun, a gift shop with a penchant for hippie paraphernalia, had been in the Haight in the golden age. “I was there before, during and after. I remember $2 concerts with the Dead, Hendrix, Santana, that went on till 2am; Janis driving up and down the strip in her Porsche. The Dead were next door at 710 Ashbury. I haven’t been to a concert since Jerry Garcia died in 1995.”

“That was then. But the Haight still has a spark. The community has managed to block certain kinds of development, like chain stores from moving in. There’s resistance to the Haight becoming like any other suburb. Sure, the Haight is an echo of what it used to be, but it’s an echo worth listening to. The Haight is unique, it’s a peace bracelet.”

Mark, a more recent resident, agreed. “Despite all the changes, the energy is still there. I remember going to a Phish concert recently. Looking at all the kids, I could have been at a Dead concert in the seventies. There are these tendrils of influence from that time and the Dead have a lot to answer for”, he said, smiling. “Everything’s still the same, except our hair.”

Boutiques and op shops were doing a roaring trade in wigs of every description and outlandish costumes in a pre Halloween shopping frenzy. Teenagers in Marilyn Manson outfits flashed us the peace sign as Hans and I walked towards Hippie Hill.

Encouraging the illusion of a wormhole through time, Hippie Hill is approached through a dark tunnel. Psychedelic art with paintings of mushrooms lined the path. A pair of boots mysteriously sits near the entrance. A hooded figure whispers: “Would the dudes like to sample some Blueberry?”

We sat on the hill under tall trees. Kids played soccer in the oval at our feet. A large, white peace symbol in splattered enamel, Jackson Pollock style, marked the centre of forking paths. Small groups of people, mostly young, dotted the hillside, some playing guitars, singing and passing joints. In the marmalade evening light they looked like stragglers from an enchanted army.


It looked like all the foot soldiers in the armies of peace, love and enchantment, and their camp followers, had assembled for Westfest, at Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park, on Sunday 25 October.

Native American elders, Zen Buddhist priests, musician for peace, the butterfly folk, the rainbow family of love and light, aging hipsters and young ferals, the Hells Angels and the Hare Krishnas, Guitars Not Guns and Grannies for Medical Marijuana, flaunting their glad rags, flying the flag, flashing the peace sign, getting high on the herb, the vibe, the roar of the music from three stages and the brilliant sunshine. Every surviving rock and roll star from the sixties and seventies (and their dog) seemed to be there. Ray Manzarek from The Doors, Paul Kantner from Jefferson Airplane, Denny Lane from The Moody Blues, Country Joe McDonald, plus the original cast from Hair. Some old timers would have had flashbacks and it wouldn’t have been the acid! And the order of the day, proclaimed by speaker after speaker, was the same: make love, not war. It was the favourite sixties mantra all over again! “Are we proud to be hippies”, the MC would yell and the crowd, estimated at around 100,000, would respond with a jubilant roar.

Westfest was the culmination of the Rainbow Dreaming US tour. We had been assigned a 40ft diameter tipi to set up the Rainbow Dreaming exhibit. At the last minute the deal fell through. Douglas Kolberg, the producer of the Greenzone at Westfest, pointed to a grove of trees and said: “Can you do something with these.”

We could. We had Emi and Sim, our two agile helpers, who climbed up the trees and set up a harness using wire and rope to hang the exhibit. The spot was right in the middle of the vast concourse between the two main stages, so hundreds of punters got to see the exhibit.

White Buffalo

Canyon, the native American activist who had welcomed us with open arms at the Westfest planning meet, was one of the last visitors at the Rainbow Dreaming exhibit. He recounted for us the White Buffalo legend.

Two brothers were out hunting for buffalo. They followed the trail for days. Finally, they spotted the herd. They were excited to see one of the buffaloes was white. To their amazement, the white buffalo turned into a beautiful woman. One of the brothers would have favour with her. He was burned to ashes. The other brother bowed before her. That winter, she took him to the lodge, taught him the prayers, taught him many things. In spring, she turned back into a white buffalo. She said: “I will feed you, now and in the hard times to come. You will use me for your ceremonies. Remember me and I will be with you always.”

Across time and the blood-dimmed tide of history the White Buffalo legend came alive in Canyon’s retelling. We were all yearning for a new way to relate to the earth, to women, to ourselves. The legend seemed to provide vital clues to our renewal as a civilisation. There were tears in his eyes as he finished the story. He said: “Remember, inside you is the centre of the universe. And the centre is love.”

The Beat Goes On

My last port of call in San Fran was North Beach, the hangout of the Beats. The Beats were the precursors of the hippies. Like a Russian icebreaker on speed, the Beats cut through the frozen tundra of smugness and coldwar hysteria of 50s America. Beat literature and Beat attitude swept across the globe like a meteor, scattering flames and sparks that ignited minds and hearts. As a teenager growing up in the seventies in faraway Mumbai I avidly devoured the beat writers. Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso, Burroughs were some of my early heroes.

While the Beats were more into booze and benzedrine, as opposed to the psychedelic reveries of the hippies, they laid the groundwork for the hippie movement. Their Rimbaudean manifesto of excess as the path to satori, flirtation with eastern philosophies, and eclectic approach to sexual liberation was the seedbed that sprouted the summer of love. “Poetry is the shadow cast by our streetlight imaginations”, wrote Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Beat poet and founder of City Lights, the famous publishing house. City Lights still stands, along with Vesuvio, the Beat watering hole. Alongside runs Jack Kerouac Alley, with quotes from various Beat writers cast in stone in English and poems by Li Po and Confucius in Chinese. Chinatown is next door.

Across the street is the Beat Museum. I spent that last afternoon surrounded by Beat memorabilia, including Kerouac’s typewriter, the signed, annotated copy of Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ and the voices of my youth. Some of those voices sound strangely prescient. Here is Ken Kesey, author of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, friend of the Hells Angels and the Grateful Dead, Merry Prankster and veteran of many an Acid Test, on America’s ‘civilising mission’ in another war. “You can’t bomb for a humane reason. What we should do is just Mother Teresa them to death with love. It’s that old hippie nonsense but it’s still the best stuff there is.”

“I see the Beat Generation as an enlightening movement,” said Beat Museum founder Jerry Cimino. “Because they followed their dreams they changed the world.”

But I’ll let the maddest Beat of them all have the last word: “All human beings are also dream beings. Dreaming ties all mankind together.” Jack Kerouac, Book of Dreams.

by Harsha Prabhu

NOTE: I would like to acknowledge the inspiration and guidance offered by the Rainbow Dreaming crew – Benny Zable, Hans Lovejoy, Saya Minami, Sayaka Nakao, Rina Terasaki, Emi Iizuka & Simeon Michaels – on this amazing journey.

Thanks to our hosts in the US, including Traci Mann & Nanci Callahan in NYC, Rob Robinson at Harvestfest, Shelli Lipton & Nathan Koenig at Woodstock Museum and Douglas Kolberg & Boots Hughston at Westfest.

Thanks to our principal sponsor Happy High Herbs and our media sponsors Byron Shire Echo & Bay FM.

Thanks to all those who donated to the community chest to make this project possible, including all the artist and performers from the rainbow region who helped raise funds for the US tour.

This project was auspiced by Byron Community & Cultural Centre, assisted by Lismore Regional Gallery and supported by Byron Neighbourhood Resource Centre and Mullumbimby & District Neighbourhood Centre.

Curated & produced by Harsha Prabhu & Graeme Batterbury for the Rainbow Collective.

All Photos: Emi, Sim, Harsha

Monkey man Sim sets up the harness for the Rainbow Dreaming exhibit @ Westfest
Sim, Emi & Hans @ Westfest
Hells Angels @ Rainbow Dreaming
Hendrix @ Westfest
Harsha & Sim set up exhibit
Rainbow Dreaming @ Westfest
Emi eating Hippie Chips!
The Love Bus 1
The Love Bus 2
The Love Bus 3
Inside the Geodome
Sim attaches the butterfly to our tree
Butterflies 4 Peace

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February 15, 2010 1 comment

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