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Geoff leaves his mark on Rio Tinto

Friday, 15th April, 2011

MURAL: Geoff DeMain’s mural of Spain’s first all Spanish soccer team from 1919 and locomotives which represent Rio Tinto’s mining history. MURAL: Geoff DeMain’s mural of Spain’s first all Spanish soccer team from 1919 and locomotives which represent Rio Tinto’s mining history.

Local artist Geoff DeMain, who has brightened a number of walls around Broken Hill, has just returned from a two month stint in Spain where he painted a mural for the town of Rio Tinto.

This was the first major initiative of the EMED Historical Mining Towns Cultural Exchange Program. The cultural exchange was inspired by mining company EMED, and links Broken Hill with fellow mining centres Rio Tinto in Spain and Banksa Stiavnica in Slovakia.

Through an exchange of artists and cultural work, it is hoped that Broken Hill can gain international exposure.

The Spanish mural, measures 8 x 20 metres and was painted on nine panels in a studio. The mural depicts Spain's first soccer team from 1919 along with two steam locomotives, both strong symbols of Rio Tinto's history.

When the British took over the mines in Rio Tinto in 1873, they brought with them many of their English pass times including several sports which had never been played in Spain. These sports included soccer, tennis and golf. Spain is now famous for its success in all of these sports but it was in Rio Tinto when these sports were played for the first time.

The locomotive is a celebrated symbol of Rio Tinto's mining history having once operated in excess of 80 locomotives at a time in the region during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Zorica McCarthy, the Australian Ambassador to Spain, officially unveiled the mural in Rio Tinto, which, according to Mr DeMain, drew quite a big crowd.

"I think (the Rio Tinto community) really enjoyed it ... there was a lot of applause and (people took) photos."

Mr DeMain, an art teacher at TAFE, has painted several murals around Broken Hill including the collection on the wall of the Community Centre in Beryl Street.

The initiative began last October when Mayor Wincen Cuy visited Slovakia to sign off on the program.

Mr DeMain had visited Rio Tinto last year, as part of the project with local photographer, Robin Sellick and another local artist Eric McCormick.

Mr DeMain and his wife Adelaide travelled to Spain, in February, for two months and arrived back in town last week.

The couple were selected to kick off the exchange as they're long-time admirers of Spain.

Mr DeMain said he and Adelaide spent time familiarising themselves with the local people, touring different towns in the region and learning about the history and culture of the area.

They also met with other artists living in the area.

Mr DeMain said there are similarities and differences between Rio Tinto and Broken Hill.

"I suppose mining companies are mining companies all over the world," he said.

"Mining (in Rio Tinto) dates back 3000 years."

Mr DeMain said Rio Tinto has amazing colours all over the land, due to the mining.

"Rio Tinto means tinted river or red river ... the water in the river is actually red," he said.

"The buildings are vastly different, there, all white washed buildings and people live in units (which are close together).

"We're (Broken Hill) more spread out ... (we) have yards and (we) live in tin houses, they don't have tin houses in Spain.

"The landscape in Rio Tinto is 500 metres (above sea level) ... they have hilly, windy roads whereas once you get out of Broken Hill it is fairly flat.

"Of course the culture is different."

Mr DeMain said the couple made lots of friends, met lots of people and learnt a lot from Spanish culture.

The next stage of the EMED Mining Cultural Exchange program will see two artists from the Rio Tinto region of Spain arrive in Broken Hill next week.

They will stay for 12 days, visiting Broken Hill artist and learning about the local region and it's culture.

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