Graffifi Tunnel, Sydney University: Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors.

Antonymns Rowena

Me on the campaign trail outside the Holme Building in 1990.

This week we’ve entering in a time tunnel and heading back to 1990 when I was running for election to edit Sydney University’s student newspaper: Honi Soit. Our team was called the Antonymns and the ant as our logo. Indeed, our intrepid leader was a massive 6ft black papier mache ant, which was hoisted up on top of a car and driven around campus. In retrospect, although we didn’t win, our campaign was actually pretty good and devising slogans, posters, t-shirts, stickers, cars mascots and then trying to convince the masses to vote for us was a massive undertaking. While some more astute politicians ingratiate themselves with key interest groups and hope the mob of sheep follow the leader, I went round speaking personally to masses of students. This included  interviewing students about the New Age Sensitive Guy or SNAG around campus and producing my findings in the university magazine: The Union Recorder.

antonyms in tunnel

As you can see, Graffiti Tunnel is a brutal, temporal place a lot like building a sandcastle on the beach, which is washed away before you’ve even stuck a feather in the top. I gather the Newshounds were either short or didn’t bring a ladder and that black ant does seem to be peering down and poking out it’s tongue at its miraculous survival.

Although election day probably should’ve been the pinnacle of our campaign, for me it was actually painting the tunnel. A friend of mine picked me up in his Dad’s station wagon and we must’ve got in there about 4.00-5.00am. It was pitch black, Winter and freezing. That’s what I remember…the cold. Yet, strangely I have absolutely no memory of any safety concerns. Seriously, who was going to knock a pair of mad students over the head during the middle of the night and run off with their tin of brown paint? Well, you can’t be too careful because our rivals, the Newshounds, had started sticking their posters up at the other end of the tunnel and they certainly were out to get us (and the feeling was mutual. The campaign had become rather heated.)

Anyway, getting back to our mission, we’d decided to turn Graffiti Tunnel into an ant tunnel. The plan was to paint the tunnel brown for that authentic look and then we stenciled Antonymns and blank ants over the top. In hindsight, I’d probably go for something more stylised using lurid colours to make more of a shocking impact. However, you live and learn.

Anyway, as I mentioned, while we were risking frost bite painting down one end of the tunnel, our rivals the Newshounds were sticking posters up at the other end of the tunnel and sometime long before dark, we met up. I don’t think the Newshounds thought too highly of the poo brown paint and the Antonyms really weren’t too sure that their intensely bright orange chalk quite conformed to election guidelines. From memory, their compliance with budget restrictions also seemed questionable. Minor things like this can flare up like a gangrenous wound during an election campaign and I lost a few friends during the course of this campaign, which I’ve regretted.

Anyway, as you may be aware, I revisited Sydney University last week and thoroughly inspected and analyzed my old haunts through the lens. This included returning to Graffiti Tunnel and feeling quite a sense of accomplishment that I’d actually painted that thing in my youth. That I was really living life to the fullest and seizing the day.


However, while I was photographing Graffiti Tunnel this time, I was surprised to find many doors inside. As I photographed them for Thursday Doors, it never crossed my mind that they might actually lead somewhere. That there could indeed be a secret world behind those doors. I’d only ever seen it as a tunnel and never delved any further. However, that all changed on this visit and some of the doors were open, revealing corridors, labs and lecture rooms. It all felt rather macabre.

I guess places are very much like people. You can think you know someone rather well but then you see them in a different light and figuratively speaking a door either opens or closes and they’re not who you thought they were.

By the way, there’s a very strong part of me which longs to return to Graffiti Tunnel and paint it again. Update it all. I’d like to paint something which really gets the students thinking about what they’re doing. Where they’re going and finding more connection and a more optimistic outlook. I have a few ideas but I fully intend to express them in paint before I confess. Intentions don’t count. This will be my Nike moment…Just do it!

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,


13 thoughts on “Graffifi Tunnel, Sydney University: Thursday Doors.

  1. Wolf of Words

    Oh man, posters? Lame. You guys were doing it right with paint and their identical, cookie cutter posters just feel too… corporate. Even if they had papered over every inch of your work, I would still give the win to the Antonyms.

  2. Judy @ NewEnglandGardenAndThread

    Very interesting and timely. I was at the store yesterday buying ten cans of white spray paint. Another customer smiled and asked me if I was doing some graffiti? I had a good laugh. Nothing near this interesting – just painting some wicker furniture. 🙂

  3. Junieper/Jesh stG

    Visiting the past doesn’t always turn out to be as rose colored as our mind made it out to be, eh? This is what I’m experiencing now (hubby has a job renovating a house here in our old neighborhood). But I like your last view of the stairs!
    May be because i was a teen during the hippie time, my views have become minimalist when I didn’t have to be part of the popular crowd anymore.

  4. Norm 2.0

    Nice that you found some cool doors that you didn’t remember being there. I love that last shot looking up from the bottom of the stairs.

  5. Rowena Post author

    Thanks, Norm. Coming back here, the tunnel really had a pull and almost felt like an entity, a force-field of sorts. Much of the architecture on campus has a very traditional English or classical theme to it, which really juxtaposed with the wilderness in the tunnel.
    I have a friend who is currently an undergraduate and I might get her to keep me posted on the tunnel and send me some photos of it’s various incantations. Actually, thinking about it, the tunnel would be a fantastic location for a gathering of the Dead Poet’s Society. Just need to add a few candles.

  6. Rowena Post author

    A friend of mine grew up in Nimbin in the hinterland behind Byron Bay. Nimbin was hippy central back in the day and has lush green farmland etc. and there’s a huge rock and hills out there. It’s very pretty. She tells horror stories of kids growing up without running water and people being very anal about being vego and pure about their food in that religion sort of way. Unfortunately, the hippy experience wasn’t all that it was made out t be.

  7. Junieper/Jesh stG

    So true! – being interested in the art that adults were interested in, saved me from a lot of things:)

  8. Rowena Post author

    Thanks, Kat. I think I was too focused on trying to understand and interact with the male of the species to notice loads of things. Indeed, I’m probably lucky that I didn’t walk into a few close doors. I’m not always the most attentive!

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