Exhibitions

Selena Archibald & Donna Fernando

Selena Archibald was born in 1961 in Moree, New South Wales and currently lives in Cardiff South (Lake Macquarie), New South Wales. Archibald is an Aboriginal woman of the Kamilaroi people (Central NSW), and a proud mother and grandmother. She grew up in Moree on the Mehi Aboriginal mission, and studied and worked in Dubbo and Adelaide, before settling in Newcastle. Archibald attended the University of Sydney as a mature-aged student after raising her family, and graduated with a Diploma of Aboriginal Education Assistants. She is a respected member of the Aboriginal community and has been active in women’s groups and community events and is now Aboriginal Education Officer at Morisset High School. She has been an integral member of the Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery Aboriginal Reference Group since 2000.

Donna Fernando was born in 1972 in Glen Innes, New South Wales and currently lives in Belmont (Lake Macquarie), New South Wales. Fernando is an Aboriginal woman from the Muruwari and Ngemba people of the central west of New South Wales. Also a proud mother, she has spent most of her life living in Newcastle and has been an active member of the community from a young age. Fernando attended the University of Newcastle where she completed a Bachelor of Education (English Literature and History), later working at the University of NSW (Aboriginal Research and Resource Centre) and with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. Fernando has been an influential member of the Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery Aboriginal Reference Group since 2000, curating and project coordinating a number of exhibitions including: Stories (2006), yapang marruma: making our way (stories of the Stolen) (2009) and A Possum Skin Cloak by the Lake (2011).

Selena Archibald and Donna Fernando initially held a group meeting to discuss solastalgia and its effects within the Aboriginal community. Through undertaking a series of concentrated discussions, they identified and teased out the best way to approach the issue. Having both worked on the exhibition yapang marruma: making our way (stories of the Stolen) for Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery in 2009, they wove stories from their own and others’ experiences and ‘a lifetime of family histories’ into their joint work Bounnoun kinbirug – from her, away from her for Life in Your Hands.

‘Bounnoun kinbirug’ was translated in An Awabakal–English Lexicon to the Gospel according to St Luke (LE Threlkeld, Govt. Printer, Sydney, 1892) as ‘from her; away from (apart from) her’. The Awabakal language is the Aboriginal language of the Lake Macquarie and Newcastle area, where Archibald and Fernando live.

Bounnoun kinbirug – from her, away from her is a small, infant-sized possum skin cloak nestled in a perspex coolamon. The work makes direct reference to Aboriginal children stolen as babies, and the resultant maternal loss and grief. The title also alludes to the resultant, complex disconnection to mother, family, skin and language – the baby may be ‘from her’ but is simultaneously ‘away from her’: taken under the Aborigines Protection Amending Act 1915.

For Life in Your Hands, Archibald and Fernando have made a cloak for an absent baby that did not, or perhaps has not yet, received a gift that will connect them to their cultural history. The tiny cloak awaits its – yet unknown – wearer, who may grow up in the full knowledge of his or her Aboriginal identity. It also sensitively expresses the potency of family connections.

Bounnoun kinbirug – from her, away from her complements the work Voices by Douglas Archibald.

Photo: Bounnoun kinbirug – from her, away from her 2012 by Selena Archibald and Donna Fernando

Bounnoun kinbirug – from her, away from her 2012
possum skin, waxed thread and ink
75 x 100cm
© the artists

Photo: Bounnoun kinbirug – from her, away from her 2012 by Selena Archibald and Donna Fernando

Photo: Preparatory work for Bounnoun kinbirug – from her, away from her. Photography by Douglas Archibald and Donna Fernando