Deathscapes

Targeting of Indigenous Women 2b - Reframing the Archive

Deathscapes

Reframing the Archive

A vintage women's gown adorned with native Australian bird feathers is hung on a detached tree branch.

[imagecaption] Born Into Sovereignty, Live in Sovereignty, 2014. Artist: Paola Balla.  [/imagecaption]

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‘Aboriginal women have been depicted in the media in this country for generations as loose women, existing only for the pleasure of men. We became currency in the colonial project. But our women were also warriors, who fought in the frontier wars. We still lead marches and protests, but at a great cost…our preoccupation with women’s rights is not to bust any glass ceilings – we’re trying to get off dirt floors and concrete prison cells.’

Paola Balla, Wemba Wemba and Gunditjmara artist, curator and researcher


The stories of Indigenous femicide constitute a hidden archive of the settler state that Indigenous artists are now reframing in multiple ways to make visible complex histories of violence and resistance. Statistics and court documents tell a small part of the story, but the core documents of this fragmented and scattered archive are the written and visual traces that supplement the testimonies of the women themselves. These images, as we discuss, are unavoidably volatile, polysemic and capable of multiple, and at times contradictory, readings.  They are important instances of Indigenous artists’ own complex responses to the representational violence of colonialism.

Throughout this case study we draw on Indigenous artists’ visual re-inscriptions, retellings and reversals of colonial violence as a complex archive of the killing of Indigenous women in a national ‘crime spree’ that is ‘vaporous’, in Audra Simpson’s words, in the sense of being both all-pervasive and untraceable.


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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are respectfully advised that this website contains images of and references to deceased persons.

All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.

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