Percy Trezise was born in Tallangatta and educated at Albury High School. He served as a pilot during World War II, enlisting on 7 December 1941 and being discharged on 4 September 1945. He moved to Cairns in 1965 to fly for Ansett Airlines and the Aerial Ambulance. A renowned landscape artist, Trezise was also responsible for bringing the Quinkan Aboriginal rock arts sites to public attention. He spent many years photographing the sites and building strong relationships with the Aboriginal people of the Laura area on Cape York Peninsula.
Trezise wrote dozens of children's picture books. Many of them were themed around issues of conservation or Aboriginal mythology, and about half were co-authored with Dick Roughsey. (Trezise became Roughsey's brother in a traditional Aboriginal ceremony and was given the name Warrenby.) Trezise also wrote The Rock Art of South-East Cape York (1971).
In 2004 Trezise was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by James Cook University for service to the north Queensland community. He is survived by his son, Matt Trezise (q.v.).
(Major source: Cairns Post, 23 May 2005)
Book illustrators Percy Trezise and Mary Haginikitas talk to children about the Aboriginal motifs in their book art and about Aboriginal culture in general.
Dick Roughsey was born near Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1924. His name is translated from his tribal name Goobalathaldin, meaning 'water standing on end' or 'Rough sea'. He received a traditional upbringing in the bush until the age of eight, when he was educated at a Presyterian mission school. After completing primary school he returned to tribal life. At the age of sixteen he went to the Australian mainland, to work as a stockman on cattle stations in North Queensland and as a deckhand on ships near Cairns.
He began to paint using traditional methods with bark. In 1962 he met former Ansett pilot, Percy Trezise, who became his mentor and encouraged him to also use Western methods of painting in oils. Roughsey held successful exhibitions of his work in many Australian cities. He and Trezise collaborated for many years, producing picture books which retold traditional stories. These were among the first to introduce Aboriginal culture to children. Roughsey also illustrated The Turkey and the Emu (1978), a traditional tale retold by his wife, Elsie Roughsey
Roughsey lived with his wife and their six children on Mornington Island, but usually spent half of each year on the North Queensland mainland. With Percy Trezise he discovered and studied the art in Aboriginal cave galleries in the Laura region of Cape York. One of these was the Quinkin gallery, which inspired the award-winning books The Quinkins and Turramulli the Giant Quinkin.
He was the first chairman of the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council in 1973.
'Damin vocabulary; initiation songs; Gidegal the Moon and Yilli-Jill-Yineah the Spirit Land stories' (Source: Mura Collections Catalogue (AIATSIS))
'Damin language discussed; men's and women's love songs and other songs; initiation songs; string manufacture and use; biographical narratives; weapons and toys; sorcery practices; Bora discussion; site recording; island dance practice; Lardil glosses of sign language; oral history; flood and rain making; tooth evulsion and septum piercing; word lists; didjeridu demonstration.' (Source: Mura Collections Catalogue (AIATSIS))
'Made at the request of the people of Mornington Island, this film was the first of five made by Curtis Levy for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies (now AIATSIS).'
'“Lurugu” is the name of an initiation ceremony that had almost died out on Mornington Island (in the Gulf of Carpentaria in north Queensland) after mission contact during World War One. This film records the community’s efforts to revive the ceremony after a lapse of 14 years.'
'Before white contact, all youths were required to undergo Lurugu, which was the first of two ceremonies for making men. In the old days the ceremony lasted months. Now, work obligations and other stresses of living in the Western world meant that the ceremony was shortened to only one week.'
'At the time of filming, about 600 people lived at the Presbyterian Mission on the island, and over half of the population belonged to the Lardil tribe. The Mission staff were invited to observe public sections of the ceremony, along with other visitors including Percy Trezise, a pilot, author and Aboriginal art expert, who had become a close friend of the community.'
'Two versions of the film were made: a longer film detailing the whole ceremony as an archival record for authorised community members, and this public version which focuses on sections of the ceremony suitable for a general audience. The film follows the preparations for the dancing, singing, feasting and body decoration that were an integral part of the ceremony.'
'Dick and Lindsay Roughsey (both of the Lardil tribe) were among those responsible for this attempt to revive the Lurugu ceremony, as part of a wider return to “traditionalism” in northern Australia, and the film follows their negotiations with tribal members and other groups about how the event is to be managed and performed.'
'Influenced by observational filmmakers like the Maysles brothers, Donn Pennebaker and others, Curtis Levy constructed the film without added music, and with an unstructured approach to following events unobtrusively with the camera, rather than trying to control them. The result is a lively portrait of a social experiment and the excitement that went with it.' (Source: Ronin Films website)