This week, another significant cultural site got blown to pieces in the Pilbara for corporate greed and lack of care.

I am heartbroken, I am angry. I mourn for all the Indigenous cultural sites around the world that have been destroyed, that we won’t ever have back.

All Land is Aboriginal Land.
All the rivers, the oceans, the lakes, the swamps, the mountains, the trees are all sacred and important to our Aboriginal survival.

When I look at these paintings I am reminded of home. I am reminded that everywhere we step there is a story, even if we don’t know. Every inch of this landscape is covered with a history, that we walk on a land soaked in blood.

Boandik country used to be wetlands. When my Nan was a child, she lived by a swamp that was filled with water and reeds they would collect. But now due to the ongoing cultural genocide and ecocide, the land has been bled dry, the waterways once plenty are now depleted. Man made concrete drains, they have been pushed into the land to drag the water out to the ocean, but that isn’t where the water should rightfully flow. It is supposed to connect to waterways of the Coorong and drain out there. Forcing the water to drain directly into the ocean damages the coastal vegetation that our people have relied on throughout history as a food source. This changed the landscape allowing for farms, houses and highways to be built.

Our lands are swamplands surrounded by volcanoes and underground cave and rock formations, but because of the water being sucked out, the ground sinks in certain places. My uncle told me that his grandfather (my great grandfather) told him they used to kick blackfellas into these holes and fill them in with rocks, burying my ancestors alive. They blew up the limestone from our volcanoes and caves, crushing them into brick to build houses for the colonisers. When we go home and drive around the town I’m reminded that every industrial part of the colony has been built with the bones of my land, foundations laid over the bones of my ancestors.

I wonder what discoveries might’ve been made had settlers prioritized Indigenous knowledge. What artwork has been lost on the cave walls, what stories are being untold. While we have our oral history and this gives us strength, the loss of our sacred sites are instrumentally damaging. Thrown away and recycled by colonisers, who wouldn't dare touch their own churches or ‘sacred’ sites.

I often wonder what landscapes looked like before invasion. I wonder what it might feel like to go sit in the bottom of a cave and touch the carvings of what my ancestors created and what that means for future generations to be able to do the same, but we’ll never know. So much is lost.

Aboriginal people have to live with so much loss of culture and language that we will never truly know how it was for our people. While also having white history and narratives being forced upon us with such detail and analysis. This is systematic and an act of white supremacy.

Early anthropologists made records of our languages, they were limited to only recording translations of English words. They recorded only one word for 'blue'; 'wilang-mari' but we know there are many shades of blue. We know the waters change their colour throughout the day and throughout the seasons but those words weren’t bothered to be recorded because they didn’t see any value in them. We know that the cycles of nature are important to our survival as Indigenous people, the words would have been there, but they have been lost over time.

In the painting 'The Forgotten Wars', by James Tylor, we see shadow figures of the Aboriginal fighters while the white soldier is depicted clearly. The white story is concreted into history, while the black story is faded into the past. But we know our history, because we tell it through our stories, we feel it all around.

My ancestor’s spirit has touched every inch of this landscape, from pre contact, to the early colonial period. To my Nan and her siblings camping at the beach during the week, because they lived too far out of town to make it to school on time. My father and my aunties and uncles coming back to country for funerals, weddings, birthdays, Christmases and the summer holidays. Every tree that gets knocked down to make way for a building or a highway and every swamp that dries up takes away those places for future generations to make their memories and build their lives on country.

Let the water flow where the water is supposed to flow.
Let the plants grow where the plants are supposed to grow.

Shadow Figures

Artist:

Sasha Smith

Year:

2020