It strikes me that reading is only one way of gaining ‘wisdom’ and visiting the National Gallery of Australia on Sunday was confirmation of that. The Aboriginal Memorial was created by 43 Ramingining Artists for the Bicential ‘celebrations’ in 1988. It consists of 200 hollow log coffins, one for each year of European occupation . These poles were used in traditional aboriginal burial rites where the bones of the dead were placed inside the logs and erected as a memorial, much like the war memorials and commemorations of dead Europeans across our land. You can read more about it and the central Australian artists who created it on the NGA website by clicking on the detail here.
As art should be, the Aboriginal Memorial is moving. It articulates the suffering and shame in our history that is all too often shoved under the carpet. However, the Aboriginal Memorial is also a ritual – an invitation to feel the grief of our history and integrate that experience into our current identity as Australians, as we walk the river pathway through the dead bodies. Historians estimate anything from 300,000 to one million indigenous Australians died in the 200 years leading up to 1988. A couple of years ago looking at the demographics for my local area, I noted that there were just 4 aboriginal people living in once fertile lands. I was so thankful to God for an opportunity to honour the first Australians in a way that has not been possible for me before. And I was totally inspired by the need for ritual and spiritual invitations in our public places.