Image courtesy of Mark Parry
Dr Jo Rey, former DSMG director and Dharug Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wallumatta campus of Sydney’s Macquarie University, along with educational video producer and learning designer Mark Parry, have put together a video artwork that showcases three beautiful parts of Dharug Ngurra that are part of Ann Randall’s story and the focus of Jo’s postdoctoral research ‘Weaving Country across the City: Activating Dharug Ngurra’ – Blacktown Native Institution; Shaw’s Creek Aboriginal Place at Yarrumundi at the foot of the Blue Mountains; and Brown’s Waterhole, in Lane Cove National Park. The piece brings together Dharug perspectives that are storied through the character of ‘Dolly’ and interwoven across the three sites.
The work is part of Songspirals, an important exhibition at University of Newcastle Gallery (open until 26 November 2022). That exhibition includes prints, barks, weaving, larrakitj, sound-scapes, and audio-visual material from Yirrkala, with the exhibition sharing aspects of 5 Dhuwa and Yirritja Songspirals and draws on the work of the published in the 2020 book Songspirals.
Jo explained the background to the video-poetry production, which was inspired by the real-life history of one of the Blacktown Native Institution’s (BNI) first seven children sent there when it opened in 1823.
It was the second phase of the intentional removal of Aboriginal children from their families and communities in order to be ‘civilized’ and prepared for domestic service futures (for the girls) and labouring (for the boys), so they would be useful in the new world that Governor Lachlan Macquarie (after whom Macquarie University is named) saw as fit for them.
The work focuses on Ann Randall, who was first institutionalised at the Female Orphan School at Parramatta, in 1822, when she was just 6 years old, and transferred to the BNI. Ann Randall was Jo’s three times great-grandmother.”
Ann began a family tradition that the children in the family should all have a ‘black Dolly’. Unbeknown to Jo, she bought ‘Black Dolly’ for her first child in the 1980s, and Black Dolly continues for her grandchildren today. Black Dolly features in the video production as an echo of Ann’s story, and the story of countless other Dharug children, and the continuities and disruptions of connections between yura and Ngurra across time.
By poetically, visually, and orally addressing the continuing issue of colonisation and practices of disconnection that undermine Country when it is a city, this work regenerates Dharug community voice and agency, while opening others to a deeper understanding of how past, present and futures are always interwoven. This calls attention to the need for greater personal and social responsibility to change practices that undermine planetary systems of balance. Dolly’s search for sustainable security and the ambiguous future she confronts mirrors humanity’s own ambiguous prospects unless localised caring for Country is at the centre of our belonging.
This work honours not only the suffering that her Ancestors suffered, but all who have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of colonisation.
Big thanks to Jo and Mark for the opportunity to showcase their work on the DSMG website.
Dr Jo Anne Rey is a Dharug post-doctoral researcher in the Indigenous Studies Department of Macquarie University and a member of the Centre for Global Indigenous Futures. Her work is focused on localised relationality for sustainable futures, including bringing Indigenous biocultural practices, such as cultural fire for healing, back to what are now urban areas.
Mark Parry is an educational video producer and learning designer. He has worked collaboratively with creative artists, researchers, academics, teachers, students, and community members across a broad range of subject areas and educational sectors to produce video and other creative media-based educational resources.