Birth of a brand with attitude
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