This Place, my Place
This Place, my place
(scroll down for Squatters Hopscotch, also House and Fence)
Found objects, wire, tin, steel, iron, wonga wonga vine, leather, wood, chalk.
Dimensions variable (adaptable to any gallery space)
This Place, my Place was exhibited at Refraction Attraction, QCA Graduate Showcase, Griffith University, Qld., 31 October – 5 November, 2018. (River Studio)
This place, my place is an installation that explores a little farm in the South Burnett that I call home. I am of the settler culture and where I grew up is Kaiabara land. It is my home, yet the land is stolen. I am of this place. My connection to this piece of country lies deep within me and this place also carries a living, palpable Indigenous story embedded in deep time.
I have taken discarded settler materials, mostly sourced from the remnants of the farm dump that was in operation between 1908 and 1973, and recreated a sense of the landscape and its human history. The floor installation Squatters Hopscotch explores the beginnings of a relentless and bloody land grab when Squatters leapfrogged their vast herds of sheep and cattle over each other to take land that was already owned and occupied. This act of thievery began the tragic waves of frontier wars. House and Fence, a sculpture of discarded wire, references both the squatter’s house still visible on a hill overlooking the valley and the homes of the Kaiabara people. (scroll down for more on Squatters Hopscotch, also House and Fence)
This place, my place explores the land, its history, its tragedy, change and the living Indigenous connection along with my own connection. I ask where do I stand on this land, within the tragedy of recent history.
This Place, my place, 2018, slide show photos above: Photos 1 – 4 by Caroline Arlett; Photos 5 – 24 by Michelle Vine
Squatters Hopscotch, 2018, Jill Sampson, photos by Michelle Vine. (above)
Squatters Hopscotch, 2018
Water tank lid, chalk, wonga wonga vine
30mm x 3300 x 1900mm
Squatters Hopscotch is an interactive artwork that has previously been exhibited as part of the installation This place, my place.
Squatters Hopscotch explores the beginnings of a relentless and bloody land grab when Squatters leapfrogged their vast herds of sheep and cattle over each other to take land that was already owned and occupied by Indigenous First Nations people.
The first principle of squatting:
“That the squatter shall have full power to settle without restriction wherever he can find unoccupied pasture, and to take possession of as much land as his stock can occupy” Maurice French, A pastoral romance: the tribulations and triumph of squatterdom (QLD: University of Southern Queensland, 1990).
Based on a children’s game of hopscotch, this artwork incorporates part of an iron water tank and text. The tank represents the rapid change of land use and booms with sound when hopscotch is played on this particular court. Each of the squares carry text relating to colonial expansion which was taught and celebrated through schools as I was growing up. Chalk, traditionally used to describe the hopscotch court, also describes the unstable boundaries of land claims as squatters continually moved beyond the legal limits of settlement.
This is a snapshot of Eastern Australia in 1844. Nine years after the illegal settlement of Victoria had begun and four years after areas in what was to become Queensland, began to be claimed by squatters. This was a time of extreme and rapid change.
Beginning in 1840, on the Darling Downs alone, the land of the Barunggam, Bigambul, Jarowar, Giabal, Keinjan, Kambuwal, Kitabal and Jagarra was taken by squatters over a period of 18 months. Frontier wars erupted where ever the squatters took their vast herds to claim land. The great pastoral expansion throughout Australia was one of brutality, bloodshed and tragedy. A very different story to what we were taught in school.
In 1844 it was estimated that squatting in Eastern Australia:
- Extended through 14 degrees of latitude
- An average width of four degrees of longitude
- Measured 1200 miles from north to south (1930km)
- 9885 settlers within this territory
- 15 052 horses
- 573 144 cattle
- 3 023 408 sheep
- Concentrated on approximately 2000 grazing stations
It is these statistics that are written onto Squatters Hopscotch in chalk. The chalk has been erased, rewritten, erased and rewritten to indicate the speed of change impacting on Aboriginal land.
Timothy Bottoms, Conspiracy of Silence: Queensland’s frontier killing times, (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2013)
Maurice French, Conflict on the Condamine: Aborigines and the European Invasion (QLD: University of Southern Queensland, 1989)
Maurice French, A pastoral romance: the tribulations and triumph of squatterdom (Qld: University of Southern Queensland, 1990)
John C. Weaver, “Beyond the Fatal Shore: Pastoral Squatting and the Occupation of Australia, 1826 to 1852”, The American Historical Review, 101/4, 1996, p. 981-1007, Oxford University Press, accessed 25.08.2018.
House and Fence, 2018, Jill Sampson, photos Michelle Vine. (above)
House and Fence, 2018
Discarded chicken wire, reclaimed 1930’s hay bale wire, timber and fence wire.
900mm x 1800mm x 1300mm
House and fence has previously been exhibited as part of the installation This place, my place.
House and fence sit as silent witness, yet speak of the inevitable decay of early squatter, then settler huts and their fences. These forms also reference the huts and windbreaks that may have been used by the Kaiabara.
This place was once part of the squatter selection called Tarong that stretched from Nanango to the Bunya Mountains. The station homestead stood on a little hill. On one side of the hill was a beautiful lagoon and on the other the meandering Tanduringie creek.
I visited this sprawling homestead during a primary school excursion, when an old lady of the squatter’s family still lived there. It had sweeping verandas under a low slung roof, the beds (glimpsed from the breezeway verandah) were encased in mosquito nets. We were shown the slots in the doors used “to shoot wild blacks”. This was my ‘matter of fact’ introduction to the Frontier Wars.
The homestead, I am told, is now a termite-ridden ruin, yet I can still glimpse it’s grey timbers snug against the top of the hill when I drive from the farm back to Brisbane.