Nukal Margun Whurrawhurra
Michelle Ball and Julie Janson began collaborating after meeting at the Narrabeen Tram Shed on a night where there were speakers about Local Guringai and Darug Aboriginal culture and history.
Subsequently they met at the Northside Aboriginal Artists exhibition at Mona Vale. They agreed to work on an installation that included sculpture, oil paintings and media. Over a few months they met at Church Point to discuss the theme “On Islands”, during these discussions there was a ‘light bulb moment’ that they could explore the Aboriginal heritage of Scotland Island. They sought permission to share the life story of Catherine Benns the granddaughter of Chief Bungaree. This woman lived on the island in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She was a renowned midwife called the “Queen of Scotland Island”. There were consultations with Uncle Bob Waterer, the great grandson of Catherine who lives in Narrabeen, he was enthusiastic about the project. Guringai and Darug language are quoted in this work with ongoing consultation with elders.
This work is about human emotion/ contested place/Indigenous memory and culture and the migration and colonisation of Scotland Island. Shared place and history are often overlooked and this work seeks to enlighten the viewer.
The process of creating the triptych involved Michelle researching photographs of the landscape and boats used in the 1800s. The images reflect the landscape such as Bar island on Marra Marra Creek where Catherine’s mother Biddy lived. There was an exploration of the symbolism of the black cockatoo signifying a ‘messenger’. This process was dry point etchings, photographed, animated for projection in the installation room. The painting of a wallaby represents a totem animal for an Aboriginal clan.
Julie created small wooden sculptures that include shelves and boxes from recycled objects to house memory, respect and an interpretation of a homage to Catherine Benns. Julie is a Darug descendant who is interested in the issues of Aboriginal dispossession of land and the survival of clans through intermarriage with European settlers.
Join artists Julie Janson and Michelle Ball in a 3 hour workshop on Saturday, 22 November 2014 from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM where you will learn to make Aboriginal Bangalow Palm dilly bags. String and other materials will be provided. Suitable all ages but not small children. You can book here.
N u k a l M a r g u n W h u r r a w h u r r a
Guringai language…. Paying respect to Guringai elders past and present
(An Aboriginal woman near Church Point and Scotland Island)
This collaborative installation explores the juxtaposition of the Indigenous and European
cultures within our local Northern Beaches environment and the significance of Guringai
ancestors on Scotland Island and areas nearby. There is a focus on the importance of
Aboriginal culture and memory and questions the custodianship of country.
We immerse the viewer, with multi media, in an intimate room. Central to the installation,
is the portrait of Catherine Benn by Michelle Ball. Catherine is the renowned ‘Queen of
Scotland Island’, she is on her rocking chair. Biddy, Catherine’s mother, features in a
triptych oil on wood as she rows past the landscape with her husband, John.
Catherine was the granddaughter of Guringai Chief Bungaree and Queen Matora. She was
the daughter of Sarah Lewis (Biddy) and Lewis John Ferdinand. She was born in 1846 at
Marramarra Creek on the Hawkesbury River and went on to marry Joseph Benn and
become the midwife on Scotland Island. She was known for her genteel manner and
kindness. She moved with her family to Bayview in 1903 but continued to row over to the
island. (George Wheeler reported in 1905 that he had seen the old lady, then 59, rowing
herself to the island in the teeth of a stiff nor’easter). She wore a set of coral and gold
earrings with necklet, which are rumoured to be hidden on Scotland Island. She is buried
in Manly Cemetery. Her husband is buried in the Church Point cemetery.
Using etchings, oil paintings and small sculptures of shelves, we strive to depict
Catherine’s life in the Europeanised society alongside her Koori heritage as a Guringai
woman. There is an animation of a black cockatoo totem projected on the ceiling and on
one wall, a display of boxes filled with Aboriginal/European objects, words and memories
installed by Julie Janson. A possum skin cloak is integral to understanding the
ceremonial attire of Koori coastal people. Likewise the use of ochres, palm frond
coolamon and stringy bark dilly bag underscore Catherine’s heritage. This work is about
human emotions, dispossession of place, Indigenous memory and culture and the
juxtaposition of stories.
Michelle Ball and Julie Janson
C Bob Waterer and Christine Waterer, the direct descendants of Catherine, have given permission for this installation.
Special thanks to Craig Wall for producing the animation of the Black Cockatoo from Michelle’s dry point etchings.