Targeting of Indigenous Women 2d - Visual Traces


Visual Traces

A woman stands beside a river of blood. Peoples bodies float in the river which has guns scattered around it. The river and bush has become a massacre site.

[imagecaption] Laurel Nannup, Quirriup 2016 (second state), Woodcut print on rag paper, 120 x 100 cm. Photo: Simon Hewson, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist and Campbelltown Arts Centre. [/imagecaption]


Contemporary representations connect to far older stories of violence. In Dale Harding’s Black Days in the Dawson River Country (2016) three unworn dresses mark the 1857 killing of an Aboriginal woman by a settler who used the pretext that she had worn a dress from his mother’s wardrobe to justify his act of murder.

In Laurel Nannup’s Quirriup (2016)the figure of a lone woman ‘standing in front of her mia-mia next to a river of blood and a sea of floating bodies’ commemorates the Pinjarra massacre of 1834. In colonial contexts, the dumping of Indigenous bodies in rivers has been used as one way of destroying the evidence of settler crimes. The Pinjarra massacre resonates historically with the 1816 Appin Massacre (NSW), in which Indigenous women, men and children were killed by armed settler forces who drove them over a gorge and into the Cataract River. Working under Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s proclamation to ‘rid the land of troublesome blacks,’  the Appin Massacre is the first known Australian instance of the destruction of massacre evidence through the dumping of Indigenous bodies in rivers. Tess Allas and David Garneau’s landmark exhibition, With Secrecy and Despatch, brought together Indigenous artworks that ‘dealt directly with the massacre or that drew on the brutalities’ that transpired across both the Australian and Canadian settler-colonial states.

Another instance of making visible the colonial killings of the present is the 2018 installation Sorry for your Loss,  ‘made up of communal artwork and visual and audio performances set within a cell block’ to tell ‘the true story of the lives of the women who have died while in custody’. In their accompanying  essay  Chris Cunneen and Amanda Porter discuss the gaps and errors in official analyses of Indigenous women and girls who die both in and out of official state custody.


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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.