Healing land, remembering Country
Healing land, remembering Country is a powerful work by Kuku Yalanji artist Tony Albert, at Elizabeth Farm.
Previously displayed on Cockatoo Island as part of the Biennale of Sydney, the wooden ‘greenhouse nursery’ is 4 metres high and 8 metres in diameter, and contains woven baskets made by artists from Bula’bula Arts, Gapuwiyak Culture and Arts, Numbulwar Numburindi Arts and Tjanpi Desert Weavers in Central Australia, and native plants supplied by the Muru Mittigar nursery.
Albert describes Healing land, remembering Country as a project ‘full of love and reflection’. It expands on a work that he created in 2018 at the site of the former Blacktown Native Institution where he collaborated with local children to reimagine the lives of those of a similar age who had been placed there nearly 200 years ago. They gifted messages on paper embedded with local plant seeds that eventually degraded into the soil to regenerate. This ‘memory exchange’ was a symbolic gesture of intergenerational healing at a site of trauma to Aboriginal people. Healing land, remembering Country similarly invites the public to engage with the complex histories of place and sites of trauma.
In presenting the work at Elizabeth Farm, Museums of History NSW acknowledges the role that Parramatta – the first site of the Native Institution (1814–20) – and the institution’s governing committee had in the systemic institutionalisation and control of Aboriginal people, the impacts of which continue today. One of the members of the committee was Hannibal Macarthur, nephew of John Macarthur, owner of Elizabeth Farm.
Healing land, remembering Country was unveiled at Elizabeth Farm for our NAIDOC Week event on Saturday 14 November 2020.