Colin Jack-Hinton, 1933-2006

The Australian for April 4, 2006 carried a long and moving obituary–perhaps “homage” would be a better word–for Colin Jack-Hinton, who passed away on March 22 in Masterton, New Zealand at the age of seventy-three. I won’t rehearse his story here; Rothwell’s prose deserves to be read in its own right. 

Jack-Hinton’s legacy for lovers of Aboriginal art is at least three fold. He was the founding director of the Northern Territory’s Museum of Arts and Sciences, today of course, with a different name and a modified mission, the home each year of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. He arrived in Darwin in 1969,

…where he became the founding director of the Northern Territory’s Museum of Arts and Sciences. In this position, during a tenure of 23 years, Jack-Hinton introduced whole fields of inquiry, inspired a legion of expert followers and developed a new conception of the north, which was embodied in his revolutionary museum.

The ghost of this vision survives today in the dramatic building of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, which stands on Bullocky Point, overlooking the Arafura Sea, but the measure of his impact rests in his influence. The modern idea of environmental history as the key to the tropics, the sense that art and science inform each other, the serious appreciation of northern indigenous cultures, the understanding of northern Australia as a component of an entire maritime region, these are all legacies of Jack-Hinton’s life.

His second legacy, closely related to his belief in the complementary nature of art and science, was the exploration of the extensive rock art of Arnhem Land, largely through the research conducted by George Chaloupka, who worked under Hinton-Jack’s direction. Chaloupka’s published works include the popular Journey in Time: the world’s longer continuing art tradition: the 50,000 year story of the Australian Aboriginal rock art of Arnhem LandBurrunguy: Nourlangie Rock; and From Palaeoart to Casual Paintings: the chronological sequence of Arnhem Land Plateau rock art.

The third legacy was the acquisition of a substantial collection of early boards from Papunya, which are now housed in Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. I had the extraordinary good fortune, thanks to Stephen Williamson and Margie West, to see a substantial selection of these works in the storage racks of the Museum back in 2001. At the time my enthusiasm for these early works had been stoked by the reproductions in the catalog for the Genesis and Genius show at AGNSW, but I wasn’t prepared for the richness and variety of the works at MAGNT. Many of the works are smallish–if you’ve seen the paintings from the Papunya School that were on display at the Araluen Center last year, you have some idea of the scale I’m talking about–and to see row upon row of them stacked together was probably the most overwhelming experience of art I’ve had in Australia.

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11 Responses to Colin Jack-Hinton, 1933-2006

  1. Fergus says:

    A great man. A great teacher. A great father.

    Miss you dad 🙂


  2. Morag Foster says:

    Colin was my would be good to be in touch.his wife Ann was my mothers sister

    • Geoff Phillips says:

      I lived in Darwin from December 1971 until April 1972. Colin used to visit a woman who lived at the house that I also lived. I can’t remember whether her name was Ann but I do remember that she had a son aged about 6 or so. I’m going back to Darwin in July 2017 where I’ll try and check out some old haunts.

      • Morag Foster says:

        Thanks Geoff–my aunt was his first wife and they had 2 girls who went to boarding school outside Perth,Scotland.It would be good to find out more since we lost touch a while ago.

  3. Pamela Howard says:

    Morag, I’ve lived in Darwin for a good while and knew Colin quite well. My husband and I were guests at his wedding to Bev Duffy. Bev and Colin moved to her home town in New Zealand with their son Fergus after he finished as director of the NT museum and art gallery. Occasionally we would see him here after that when he visited his daughter Fiona in Darwin. I’m not sure where his other daughter lived.

    • Geoff Phillips says:

      Thank you Pamela. The whole scene is extremely vague as it is 45 years since I was last in Darwin. I worked at NTD8 just after it began transmission. At the house were two other blokes — a Kevin Naughton who worked at 8DN and Earl Mant who was a photographer at the NT NEWS.I can always remember Colin as he came around to the house. His beard was a real beauty!. I am still trying to remember our landlord — she was a land agent who used to run around Darwin in a VW Beetle with a dolls house on the roof. Any clues? We lived at 25??? Phillip St Fannie Bay. Thanks

      • Pamela Howard says:

        Could your landlady have been Stella Kirk? She was a real estate agent in Darwin in the early 1970s and was flamboyant enough to do something like that! Had Andy Bruyn started at NTD8 when you were there? Here’s a link to the early years of TV. In Darwin that might interest you.

        Darwin has changed enormously since those years and parts of it now look like any other small city. However, there are some benefits – no longer do we get cut off by road from the rest of Oz when there’s a big wet season, there’s more choice of flights in and out, more live entertainment, the shops hardly ever run out of staples. Those early days were great fun, though, or perhaps we just hung around with a bigger and more creative bunch of ratbags than we do now.

      • Geoff Phillips says:

        You’re right — it was Stella Kirk who was our landlady. Now you’ve got me thinking who was the Mayor at the time — I reckon that she was a doctor. Several years after I left I had bought a taxi and I picked the mayor up. I also remember picking up Lutz Frankelfelt, a very tall German who had the Toyota dealership and used to advertise on Channel 8. I can’t remember Andy Bruyn — he may have taken my job. Fred Yates was the manager (dropped dead at his desk) and Peter Resch was the “chief engineer”. Melissa Purich and Lindy Wilkey also worked there. Of course John May did everything. I’ve tracked down Melissa and we’ve got to work out a time for a chat. I am looking forward to returning for the Crows v Melbourne game in July. My wife and I are booked into the Airport Novotel from Wednesday night (late) 12th and departing Sunday 16th. We should catch up my mobile is 0411 699 994. Thanks for the link for the 40th anniversary. Hope that there’s no scandal about Mike Hayes and me after the Folk Club shows at East Point. Thanks again. Geoff

      • Pamela Howard says:

        We knew a few of the ABC guys including Mike Hayes. Bill Fletcher, who became chief of staff there and Trevor Kelly, one of the techs, were – still are – particularly good friends. Ella Stack would have been the mayor at the time and Lutz Frankenfeldt was certainly around. I think we’ll be in town in July so would love to catch up, maybe a sundowner one evening at the sailing club on East Point Road would fit in with your plans. Will you have a vehicle? Your hotel is 15 minutes or so by car from the CBD with only an occasional public bus service.

      • Geoff Phillips says:

        Of course Mike Hayes died about 15 years ago. Yes, the Prickle Farmer is no more. I have seen Alf Jervis at my local Woolies — he’s well into his 80’s now. I’ve booked a rental car from Thrifty so I can show my wife a few of the spots. Thanks again for all your help. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the place has changed in the last 45 years! Cheers!

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