SUN bathers, swimmers, surfers and surf life savers are the stars of a new travelling exhibition from the Australian National Maritime Museum, Waves & Water - Australian beach photography, set to open at the Manning Regional Art Gallery tonight (Friday).
Covering Australian beach culture from the 1930s to 2000, the exhibition consists of 35 iconic photographs from seven leading Australian photographers, Max Dupain, Ray Leighton, Jeff Carter, Roger Scott, Ian Lever, Narelle Autio and Anne Zahalka.
Offering differing perspectives of the Australian beach and the people who populate it, the exhibition provides a fascinating insight into beach culture, and how Australia's photographers have pictured our obsession with sun-drenched beaches and the tanned athletic bodies that use them.
One of the most famous photographs featured in the exhibition is Max Dupain's Sunbaker taken in 1937.
Dupain's photographs show his interest in light, sun, shadow, surf and the horizon lines of the beach while also focusing on the muscularity and athleticism of surf lifesavers and swimmers.
The exhibition also includes Anna Zahalka's more recent playful images of "bronzed Aussie" lifesavers in her photos of pale skinned redheads and burqa-clad swimmers.
Also opening at the gallery is an exhibition featuring Kuna molas costumes from Panama.
Molas are costumes constructed by the Kuna women of Panama, and are famous for their brightly coloured motifs and patterns.
They are made using multiple layers of differently coloured fabrics in a process known as "reverse appliqu ".
They have been an important part of a Kuna woman's traditional costume in Panama for more than 150 years.
Molas are worn in pairs, and are sewn to both the front and back of the women's blouses. Usually accompanied by a blue-patterned skirt and a red and yellow headscarf, molas are an important display of a Kuna woman's skill and the Kuna Yola identity.
The molas in this exhibition have been selected from a private collection owned by a Wingham resident.
The works have been selected and interpreted by curator Sandra Brown.
"This exhibition offers audiences an opportunity to see how an ancient culture has maintained its symbols and identity over several centuries," Sandra said.
"It is amazing to find an extraordinary cache of Kuna molas colourful textile panels from the San Blas region of Panama that have been collected by a local Wingham resident."
The history of the mola sits alongside the struggle of the Kuna Indians to retain their culture after the Spanish conquest of Central America.
The subsequent Hispanic influence and political domination was forced onto most of the indigenous cultures of this region.
Kuna molas will be on exhibition at Manning Regional Gallery from Saturday, August 9 to Sunday, September 21.
Both exhibitions open tonight (Friday) at 6.30pm.
Manning Regional Art Gallery in Macquarie Street, Taree is open Wednesday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm, and Sunday from 1pm to 4pm.