Legacy: Reflections on Mabo
Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts, Townsville, 5 July - 11 August 2019
Elisa Jane Carmichael and Sonja Carmichael, Toby Cedar, Obery Sambo, Ken Thaiday Sr, Marion Gaemers, Talitha Kennedy, Jo Lankester, Judy Watson, Hayley Megan French, Veronica Lulu and Kim Mahood, Dian Darmansjah, Blak Douglas and Adam Geczy, Shane Fitzgerald, Patricia Hoffie, David Jones, Arone Meeks, Jim Paterson, Tommy Pau, Anneke Silver, Katina Davidson, Ian Kaddy, Ronald McBurnie
Curated by Gail Mabo, Jonathan McBurnie and Kellie Williams
Participating venues: Umbrella Studio Contemporary Arts, Townsville | Redland Art Gallery | Maitland Art Gallery | Hawkesbury Regional Gallery | Bunbury Regional Art Galleries | Burnie Regional Gallery | Burrinja, Dandenong Ranges Cultural Centre | Nautilus Arts Centre | Port Lincoln | Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery | Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery | Australian National Maritime Museum
The work and the life of Eddie Mabo has impacted many Australians in terms of our understanding and experience of place. A sense of place is often intrinsically linked to expressions of personal identity, communities, and notions of belonging. A sense of place can be formed or interpreted through a range of lenses, including land or geographic location, language, culture, food, and even memory. Despite the many challenges that Mabo faced throughout his life, including being sent away from his beloved Mer Island in the Torres Strait, he never forgot where he came from. His connection to place burned a fire so brightly in his heart that he dedicated an enormous chunk of his life to fighting for acknowledgement of this - which was about so much more than the law.
Several artists have created works inspired by Eddie’s connection to place, and the nuanced meanings attached to this. Marion Gaemers explores a connection to place through a celebration of the octopus featured on Mabo’s memorial site - symbolising the Murray (Mer) Islander God Malo, which was central to the legal evidence about the continuity of the Torres Strait Islander customary system. In a similar vein, Talitha Kennedy has recreated boundary markers that were critical proof of Indigenous occupation. Jo Lankester has referenced Eddie’s map drawings of his land through an abstracted landscape print, also key in his Native Title case. Judy Watson has overlaid British Anthropologist Alfred Cort Haddon’s line drawn map of Mer onto a contemporary map of Murray Island, interrupted with resistance pins. Hayley Megan French and duo Veronica Lulu and Kim Mahood have both been drawn to explore personal expressions of their own attachment to country or place.
Hayley Megan French
This artwork directly represents my own backyard as I reflect on the ways we individually and collectively represent ourselves and our culture, and how this contributes to a sense of being at home. Being at home is an action of locating myself within a broader self understanding of who we are, how we live together and where we belong.
In previous paintings I have layered and obscured ideas of landscape as an expression of the physical and emotional vertigo of landscape and identity in Australia.
In 2018 my partner and I moved into Guildford where we are building our home. Wedged in the hive of Western Sydney suburbia, Guildford is largely populated by post-war fibro houses of pastel blues and greens, each with distinct visual characters: cultural botanical and religious adornments. It is home to many cultures, many churches, backyards, Hills Hoists and well-aged gardens. Working largely from home, I have been locating myself through photography, colour, gardening and painting. I am looking, in earnest, to better understand the place where I choose to live.