|The Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney celebrates the 150th anniversary of Joseph Conrad's birth. On Monday, 3rd December 2007 the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) in Sydney, in cooperation with the Consulate of the Republic of Poland, held a reception celebrating the 150th anniversary of Joseph Conrad's birth. The reception in the Tasman Light Room was accompanied by Polish music performed by the Orava String Quartet, an artistic initiative of young Australian musicians with Polish backgrounds.
In her opening speech, Mary-Louise Williams, the Director of ANMM pointed out great significance of Polish – born novelist and voyager for Australia's maritime history. She also commented on his inspiring literary achievements and impressive grasp of English, which despite being his second language was the medium of his narratives.
Other speakers at the reception included the Consul of the Republic of Poland, Grzegorz Jopkiewicz, and Andrew Siedlecki - a journalist, broadcaster and lecturer at the Department of Polish Studies at Macquarie University, who recited two excerpts of Conrad’s memoirs and his novel Mirror of the Sea.
From left: Grzegorz Jopkiewicz, Andrzej Siedlecki, Mary-Louise Williams & Wojciech Ihnatowicz
The function was one of numerous events in the internationally celebrated Joseph Conrad Year in 2007 and the continuation of the Conrad theme for the museum, which launched an exhibition devoted to Joseph Conrad on 15th of November. The exhibition Conrad in Australia presents Conrad’s maritime links with Australia - the ships he served on, his impressions of Australian ports, and his connections to the people and places here and will be on display until 10 February 2008.
The collection of letters, photographs and books, which provides an insight into Conrad's time in Australia, has been gathered within last 12 months with the assistance of various local and overseas institutions.
Joseph Conrad’s links to Australia are great indeed. As a mariner he visited the ports of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide regularly in the decade after 1878. His experiences on ships carrying cargo to and from Australia and acquaintances he made here provided the inspiration for many of his works.
In his novel, the Mirror of the Sea, which is exhibited in the National Library in Sydney, Conrad described Sydney as: a fairy city from the heart of which down the vista of important streets could be seen the wool clippers lying at the Quay - no walled prison-house of a dock, that, but the integral part of one of the finest, most beautiful, vast and save bays the sun ever shun upon.
A summary of Conrad's experiences in Australia can be found in a letter he wrote four months before his death: I met there nothing but kindness from people in various social spheres and ... I have acquired a great affection for that Young Continent which will endure as long as my faculty of memory itself endures.
Young Poles at the Conrad exhibition
The Conrad function at ANMM was another event co-organized by the Consulate General of Poland in Sydney this year to commemorate the genius of the Polish – born novelist and mariner. In September Waverley Library hosted an exhibition Joseph Conrad. Twixt Land and Sea and on 6th of October State Library of NSW held a seminar Joseph Conrad. Between Sea and Sky.
Text and photos by Magdalena Kopydlowska
The excerpts from “Mirror of the Sea” and Conrad’s letter come from: