Douglas Archibald

Douglas Archibald was born in 1959 in Armidale, New South Wales and currently lives in Cardiff South (Lake Macquarie), New South Wales. Archibald is an Aboriginal man, a descendant of the Gumbangurri people; he is also a proud father and grandfather. He has lived the majority of his life in Lake Macquarie, and is an active and respected member of the Aboriginal community. As an artist, he has made a considerable impact in and around Lake Macquarie and Newcastle with significant murals, mosaics and sculptures, among his many fine art works. Archibald attended the Hunter TAFE (1976–1979) and graduated with a Diploma in Fine Arts. He has been a senior member of the Aboriginal Reference Group of the Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery since its inception in 2000, acting as coordinating artist on many projects including A Possum Skin Cloak by the Lake (2010–11) and Bridging Cultures (2011).

In his work Voices, Douglas Archibald has addressed a complex issue facing the children whose parents are part of the Stolen Generations by asking the question: what is the ongoing effect of the removal policy on following generations? In New South Wales, the Aborigines Protection Amending Act 1915 removed the requirement that Aboriginal children had to be found to be neglected before the Board could remove them. They could be taken simply for having an Aboriginal parent. While Archibald has clear links to his own ancestry, to inform this work he consulted directly with men whose parents had been removed as children. These men may know their parents and be secure in that knowledge, but do not necessarily know who their grandparents are, or their aunts, uncles or extended family. By talking openly and honestly through a series of face-to-face discussions, the men revealed the impact of the removal policy on their relationships with their parents, on their Aboriginal identity and on their everyday perceptions of themselves.

The imagery for the final piece came from listening to the men, and the stories and experiences of our people.

Voices continues Archibald’s investigation into reconnecting with cultural heritage through reviving traditional Aboriginal practices. This possum skin cloak was made using a technique similar to that used by his ancestors who lived in the Armidale area; burning and painting designs into possum skins which are then sewn together. Voices, however, is a contemporary interpretation of the traditional cloak and made to fit an adolescent boy. The teenage years are usually when people start to investigate their identity with great interest: who they are, where they have come from, and where they will go. With no knowledge of their ancestry beyond their parents, this becomes a difficult journey for the children of the Stolen Generations.

My hope is that going through this process will encourage the men to engage [where they have not] with the Aboriginal community, and to reach out for individual support. Douglas Archibald 2012

Voices complements the companion work Bounnoun kinbirug – from her, away from her by Selena Archibald and Donna Fernando.

Artwork: Voices 2011 by Doug Archibald

Voices 2011
possum skin, pyrography, synthetic polymer paint and waxed thread
120 x 115cm
© the artist

Photo: Douglas Archibald using pyrography tools on possum skins