Home Terra inFirma Terra inFirma: Sovereignty and Memory | Curatorial statement

Terra inFirma: Sovereignty and Memory | Curatorial statement

by Emma Kouretas

This exhibition acknowledges we are standing on Dharug Ngurra, and pays respect to the continuous connections of Dharug Peoples as Garungul Ngurra (Strong Country).*

250 years ago, the ship named Endeavour sailed into Kamay (Botany Bay) captained by James Cook. In his first attempt at an exchange with the so called ‘natives’, he observed correctly – “all they seemed to want was for us to be gone”.

Regardless of this fact, the land was declared Terra Nullius (nobody’s land) and in the name of the British King, the Empire took possession. This period marked the beginning of colonisation and systemic attempts to erase thousands of years of Aboriginal law, culture and land custodianship.

In this exhibition, artists are asked to respond to this history as a Terra inFirma. The title reveals a disruption of Latin as an Imperial language to draw out potential notions of unstable and questionable colonial terrains.

While colonisation has the potential to undermine First Peoples, Dharug Peoples of the Sydney region argue that the land was never ceded and our Peoples continue to show strength, resistance, unity and pride in our culture and Country.

The Terra inFirma series of exhibitions and performances throughout 2020 reflect on the commemorative year by presenting deeper knowledge about sovereignty and wider cultural histories, and how the arrival of Cook has impacted on Dharug Peoples and other communities represented in Blacktown.

2020 has been a momentous year in other ways. Artists in this exhibition have also responded to the global Black Lives Matter movement and the destruction of sacred sites across Australia, and all the projects have been impacted by the coronavirus crisis.

Alex Byrne, Gary Carsley with Leanne Tobin and students from Chifley College Bidwill Campus, Dean Cross, Jasmine Guffond, Jumaadi, Brian Fuata, Julie Vulcan, Judy Watson

* Darug language is an oral language and, in most circumstances, there are various spellings for most words.