Describing an Indigenous Experience: The Unforgetting of Australian history through language and technology

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Hawker, Rosemary

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Cherrie, Derrick

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The central focus of this research is to subvert dominant narratives of colonisation in Australia through three-dimensional, mechanical devices I have constructed to make visual utterances that give authority to an Australian Aboriginal experience. Informed by my Indigenous heritage that I discovered as a teenager, and my subsequent research into my extended family’s experiences, my work scrapes back the layers of colonial concealment to expose what exists below the overlays of control. I reveal aspects of the histories that exist below this thin, almost mechanical, controlling veneer. The materials used in my constructions include those that are embedded with connections to place, connections to family, and connections to history and culture that are personal to me. I use specific materials to carry and magnify narrative, so that the stories are made visible. I was denied so much of my history in childhood and now ‘the machine’ becomes a transitional agent for claiming and for telling something of that history. Appropriating contemporary colonial Western technology, including text, I provide alternative narratives of colonisation to resist and counter the negative effects of colonisation on Australian Indigenous people. I have learnt to speak the language of the post-industrial colonialist era and I use it to understand my own experience. In the artworks, I forge links with technology, materials and non-linear, non-written text-based processes. I claim value in revealing hidden, forgotten, denied and ever-changing histories. By taking the power of language and technology that was and is used to control Aboriginal people, I take the power of that technology to disarm it. In using so-called ‘non-Indigenous’ Western technologies, I build, construct, and use the coloniser’s tools to undo the coloniser’s work. I work to make visible an Aboriginal experience and to assert authority over history, experience and storytelling. I do not intend to create hierarchies or further means for oppression but to disrupt the ongoing processes and effects of colonisation that marginalise Aboriginal voices. My goal is to deflect the violent, debasing and destructive energies of colonialism and to create positive expressions of Aboriginality.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Visual Arts (DVA)


Queensland College of Art

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The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.

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Australian Aboriginal experience

Indigenous heritage

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