In this session Julie showed many of her photographs that explore amongst other things the notion of ‘Absence’ in the Tasmanian landscape. Where are the missing people that inhabited the island prior to settlement by Europeans? Julie found traces of them in the evocative nineteenth century placenames that hint at their presence: Black Charlie’s Creek, Blackboy, Blackman’s Bay, Jacky’s Marsh etc. Her photos show fingerboards with the placenames but as well the empty landscape behind denuded of native vegetation. The absence of people, of native scrub and native animals point to the obliteration of their culture. And yet within Tasmanian society many Aboriginal people live and practice their culture.
As well Julie noted the number of Aboriginal words appropriated as placenames: Karoola, Catagunya, Bungana and Camena to name a few. Many of these were imposed on the landscape in the twentieth century with little regard for their language, origins and meaning.
You may recall Julie’s photos in the Gallery several months ago, photos of BBQ shelters in picnic spots that have former Aboriginal cultural associations. Her lecture and photo-show also greatly enhanced our understanding of the current exhibition ‘Settlers and Savages’ which uses everyday nineteenth century furniture and objects, embellished with gashes and accretions of red beads, symbolising the blood spilt during the clashes between Aborigines and settlers.
These two events led to many thoughtful comments and further understanding of the culture and experiences of the First Australians.