Globally, we are increasingly compelled to revisit histories that for so long have been regarded as grounded in truth. What we are discovering is confronting and difficult, because truth is not always as it seems and often conventions and norms of the day result in a version of history that is based more on convenience than fact.
This exhibition brings together works from the Cairns Art Gallery Collection and continues the Gallery’s commitment to and interest in contributing to international research to explore diverse narratives around issues race, identity and place. The history of white settlement and first contact is one of shame and sadness, especially in Australia. Globally, we are increasingly compelled to revisit histories that for so long have been regarded as grounded in truth. What we are discovering is confronting and difficult, because truth is not always as it seems and often conventions and norms of the day result in a version of history that is based more on convenience than fact.
The works in the exhibition have been grouped together to suggest new ways of unravelling some of the complex and disturbing narratives around the settlement and development of far north Queensland, including many non-Indigenous people who have witnessed and experienced the darker side of nation building. Issues of cultural diversity, identity and social and political inequity are explored through works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists as well as artists from other ethnic backgrounds whose ancestors immigrated to Australia during the 19th and 20th centuries.
As we explore the events around the early days of first contact in Queensland in the 1830s, it is evident that prevailing conditions and government policies of the day were based on accepted notions of white supremacy, endorsed by a convenient international law that deemed Australian land, which was occupied by 500,000 to 1 million Aboriginal people, as Terra Nullius, meaning land belonging to no-one. This legal definition gave rights to the early colonists and tacitly condoned the massacres and brutality that went with white occupation of Queensland and other parts of Australia. Art continues to be a powerful language through which to give expression to and raise ideas for discussion and debate. This is most evident in the work of many contemporary Indigenous artists who believe change is both desirable and possible.
Vernon AH KEE
Tracey MOFFAT AO
Walter R. Lui
The Cairns Art Gallery acknowledges the Gimuy Walubarra Yidinji and Yirrganydji as the Traditional Owners of the area today known as Cairns. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, names or voices of deceased persons in photographs, film or text.