‘Among the aborigines inhabiting the Darling and Lower Murray Rivers, New South Wales, it was customary for the female relatives of a deceased person to plaster they’re faces and heads with white clay and gash themselves to such an extent that the blood flowed over the clay onto their shoulders.’
— R. H. Goddard. ‘Kopi: Funerary Skull Caps’, The Journal of the Anthropological Society of New South Wales, August 1936 Vol. 2, No. 2, pages 125 – 127.
Down by the River, Darling… references The Darling River, the ‘Mother’ to the Barkindji Peoples. The Darling and its tributaries has for countless generations nourished the Barkindji with not only food and transport but spiritual succulence.
Since Colonisation, the river has undergone massive degradation, more so in recent decades, with fruit and cotton farmers using the water to irrigate their crops. This use, coupled with prolonged drought and the stealing of water, has left The Darling, for large parts of the year, with intermittent dry beds and pools of green, stagnant water. My show protests the ‘dying’ of the Darling and also references my Lament for the Barkindji Peoples who were historically slaughtered and diseased by Captain Charles Sturt, Sir Thomas Mitchell and Post-Colonial Whiteman.
Affection for the land and the river runs deep in me. The erosion of culture and the fragility of land and river are informed in my art by the materiality of its making. The two are intertwined. The Kopi expresses ‘sorry business’ and is a metaphor for the central theme of my work. I enjoy the process of working with materials which help to tell this story. The fragility of the land is reflected in the fragility of the butcher’s paper which the photographs are printed on. The sculptural Kopis of the installation work is made from religious tracts, cotton balls and white ochre (kaolin), which reflect my concerns.
Down by the River, Darling… consists of Performance-Photography, Sculpture, Painting, Video, Sound and Mixed Media. I dedicate this exhibition to my Barkindji grandmother, Nanna Kath.
The exhibition will be opened by Djon Mundine OAM with the artist in attendance.
Artist talks and events
When: 3pm Sunday 19 May
Where: Manly Art Gallery & Museum: West Esplanade, Manly, NSW, 2095
Teena McCarthy will perform her poetry and talk in conversation with Djon Mundine OAM about her life and creative journey.
Teena McCarthy is a visual artist and poet working predominantly in painting, photography and performance art. She is an Italian/Barkindji woman and a descendant of The Stolen Generations. McCarthy’s work documents her family’s displacement and Aboriginal Australians’ loss of culture and ‘hidden’ history. While acknowledging the intergenerational pain of post-colonialism, she uses wit, humour and pathos to explore her own identity. Teena is represented by Art Atrium and is the winner of the recent King & Wood Mallesons Contemporary ATSI Art Prize. This exhibition is part of the 2019 Gai-mariagal Festival.
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