Birth of a brand with at­ti­tude

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television Free To Air - Mambo: Art Ir­ri­tates Life,

Aunty’s cul­ture se­ries Artsville re­turns, some­what un­her­alded and un­pro­moted, but still one of the best pieces of arts pro­gram­ming we’ve seen from the ABC. The new sea­son in­cludes the story of Half Brick Stu­dios, a lit­tle Bris­bane gam­ing com­pany that struck it rich with the smash hit mo­bile game Fruit Ninja; Harry Sei­dler: Modernist, which looks at the con­tentious Syd­ney ar­chi­tect; and Richard Flana­gan: Life after Death, chron­i­cling the life and work of the Man Booker Prize win­ner.

First up, though, is Paul Clarke’s bril­liant ac­count of the way cloth­ing brand Mambo grew out of the Syd­ney punk mu­sic scene and be­came a hit across Aus­tralia; an anom­aly where punk rock, sur­re­al­ism and pun­gent so­cial com­men­tary col­lided with com­merce in the tin sheds, garages and record shops of in­ner-city Syd­ney. Nar­rated in ap­pro­pri­ately la­conic fash­ion by co­me­dian and ac­tress Celia Pac­quola (star of Rose­haven), the Mambo: Art Ir­ri­tates Life film fea­tures in­ter­views with Mambo’s cre­ator Dare Jen­nings, “a card-car­ry­ing leftie with a shark­like busi­ness brain”, the artists who brought the brand to life, in­clud­ing Reg Mom­bassa, Bruce Goold, Richard Al­lan and Matthew Martin, and archival footage that seems to rep­re­sent a par­al­lel uni­verse of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

Grow­ing from a rag­tag col­lec­tive op­er­at­ing in the back room of Phan­tom Records in the 1970s, Mambo emerged in 1984 to sell 3000 T-shirts and board shorts — with the logo of an an­gry man with a bone through his nose — for $70,000.

After de­sign­ing cos­tumes and uni­forms for the Syd­ney Olympic Games in 2000, Jen­nings sold the com­pany for more than $20 mil­lion. ABC. Tues­day, 9.30pm,

Artist Reg Mom­bassa re­calls his time as a shaper of the la­bel’s aes­thetic in

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