Collection Online
Medium
rusted iron and tin, fencing and barbed wire, wire
Measurements
268.5 × 703.0 cm irreg.
Place/s of Execution
Swan Hill, Victoria
Accession Number
2014.1978
Department
Indigenous Art
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, NGV Supporters of Indigenous Art, 2014
© Lorraine Connelly-Northey
Gallery location
Not on display

Lorraine Connelly-Northey was born and grew up in Swan Hill, Wadi Wadi and Wamba Wamba terrain, in Victoria, south of her mother’s Waradgerie Country, disconnected from mainsprings of culture, language and ceremony as a consequence of colonisation. Rather than coil weaving with sedge, a customary art she experimented with, Connelly-Northey has initiated a dramatic sculptural practice that suits her personal history and hybrid cultural identity. She works with discarded post-industrial materials ‒ the detritus of colonisation ‒ that she refashions into objects and installations that resonate with cultural and political meaning.

Possum-skin cloak: Blackfella road references the desecration of culturally sensitive burial sites resulting from the construction of an unsealed road near Swan Hill. This road is boycotted by Connelly-Northey and her family and continues to haunt the artist, as does her memory of visiting and witnessing such decimated places with her father. The huge, rusted corrugated-iron and barbed-wire installation reads as the apotheosis of a possum-skin cloak that commemorates a particular tract of the riverland disrupted by the road and the wheels of its motorised vehicles, symbolised by circles of barbed wire stretching across it. The fringe of the cloak represents hunters and gatherers whose skeletal remains were desecrated, signified by their multiple artefacts and disembodied hands that clamour for social justice.

This three-dimensional wall drawing of immense gravitas extends the range and expressiveness of Connelly-Northey’s iconography and delivers a powerful message about the impact of colonialism on Indigenous Victoria. The work expands the artist’s abiding interest in the possum-skin cloak, an object of profound cultural significance, embellished with mnemonic designs that encode connections to Country, worn in ceremonies and used to wrap bodies of the deceased in burial. Possum-skin cloak: Blackfella road can therefore be understood as a re-sanctification of burial sites violated by colonisation.