The story of Jiří Chaloupka, a Czech who emigrated to Australia and dedicated his life to the documentation and preservation of the rock paintings of Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory.
In 1948, right after the Communists seized power in the Czech Republic, he emigrated to Australia. There, as a youth he had the chance to get to know the original inhabitants of Australia and their traditional way of life during work mapping the waterways of the Northern Territory. From that point on his fate was intertwined with indigenous culture.
Driven by a love for indigenous cultures George, a nature lover and enthusiastic scout as a child, became a leading expert on indigenous rock painting, in the Kakadu region especially. Later he became a museum curator and was even awarded the Order of Australia for his services to indigenous art and culture. Thanks to his studies, we were able to more accurately pinpoint the age of indigenous culture in Australia.
Despite his life-long passion for and original contribution to the indigenous cultures of Australia, he never turned his back on his home country and repeatedly returned after the Velvet Revolution. At the age of 79, on the 18th October 2011, he passed away in Darwin.
He was the first Czech to be honoured with an Australian state funeral and in accordance with his spoken wishes, half of his ashes were laid to rest in his home town of Týniště near Hradec Králové. He left behind an intriguing legacy of understanding and respect towards indigenous culture in Australia, which lives on thanks to the George Chaloupka Fellowship program, founded in 2008, which aims to preserve rock paintings in Arnhem Land. The coming together and cultivating of a positive relationship between two seemingly different cultures is a central theme in his life.
The painting Kangaroo and the Watering Hole, created under the guidance of Yidnji artist, Greg Joseph, together with staff and friends of the Embassy of the Czech Republic, hangs proudly on the wall of the main hall of the Czech Embassy in honour of Jiří Chaloupka.
Cover photo: Jiří Chaloupka: Source: Gilbert Herrada, theaustralian.com.au