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Nostalgia Given Life on a Graincorp Silo

It’s the innocence. The delight on the young boy’s face as he plays with a simple paper boat made from a rediscovered old newspaper evokes feelings of nostalgia in the onlooker. It’s alluring, almost addictive.


Winner of this year’s Best Rural Art category, this Graincorp silo mega-mural takes me back to childhood when the artistry of folding paper to create a valueless toy in the shape of a boat proved to be priceless.


Then came the wet shoes, the delight as I keenly followed the boat on its maiden and typically final voyage, the discovery of flowers and insects along the waterway, the disappointment as my prized possession slipped beneath the surface, the slog back home made harder by my loss, and the sly smile on my mother’s face when I arrived exhausted and sometimes fractious.


For me, this rural mural was the ultimate catalyst in rekindling all these memories and many more. And it mattered little that I didn’t grow up anywhere near the Goondiwindi region town of Yelarbon, with its unexpected, picturesque lagoon on the edge of the vast spinifex plains.


How many children have folded paper boats to amuse themselves either because more expensive toys were not available or because the creation was part of the satisfaction?


Given the history of origami and the popularity of the simple boat design I suspect that the answer would be higher than you first imagine.


When and exactly where the artistic expression started has been lost, but sometime during the sixth century AD Buddhist monks from China arrived in Japan bearing intricate origami creations as gifts. That’s right – paper folding was originally a Chinese tradition. In Japan, the beauty and simplicity of paper folding transformed it into a religious activity. That’s the way it stayed thanks to the high price of paper until the 15th century when poetic references indicate that it had become more common place. It was still only used for special occasions though. Specifically, origami butterflies were used during Shinto weddings and Samurai warriors exchanged gifts adorned with an origami good luck token.

Self-taught Peruvian artist Mariano Zavala crafts intricate origami sculptures.

And that century was most likely when origami caught the eye of the western world too. In a rather obscure 1498 edition of what was a popular Medieval book called Tractatus de Sphaera Mundi (which translates to something like ‘The Sphere of the Cosmos’) there is a picture of a paper boat. It did not appear in any earlier editions, despite the book having been originally written in 1230.


A lot has changed over the past six centuries. A resurgence of interest in the 1950s turned origami into a global sensation and there is now an Origami World Championships, origami competitions to create giant pieces*, international origami design challenges, and origami festivals.

Yelarbon Lagoon

I reckon an origami event would be perfect for the Yelarbon Lagoon with this wondrous silo art as its inspiration.


Imagine a plethora of vividly coloured origami birds, white and mauve paper water lilies, delicate dragon flies and a swathe of boats made from newspaper, just like the scene that has been painted by The Brightsiders in this magical mural entitled “When the Rain Comes”.

I can! I can imagine it! Who’s up for a one-of-a-kind road trip to have some origami fun in Yelarbon?


* The biggest single piece to date was an origami crane with a wingspan of 81.94 metres. It was created by the Peace Piece Project at Hiroshima Shudo University in Hiroshima back in 2009.


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