Distinguished Ngugi elder and Quandamooka Traditional Owner Uncle Bob Anderson (Dr. Robert Anderson OAM) is the focus of art exhibition Singing Up Spirit of the Land. Contemporary digital and painted portrait work capture not just likeness of the elder, but spiritual meaning behind sand minings end on Minjerribah, North Stradbroke Island in 2019, a result of native title determinations granted to the Quandamooka peoples in 2011. The integrity of these artworks are testament to an enduring relationship between Aboriginal elder Uncle Bob Anderson and artist Jo Fay Duncan who identifies as an ecological artist and second generation Scot, residing on Quandamooka Country.
At 92, Uncle Bob is a living legend. His legacy concerns not only Native Title determinations over Quandamooka Country but also Aboriginal rights in the work place. These artworks are a tribute to him, an honouring of the ancestors and hope for a better world for our descendants.
This exhibition encapsulate a body of work that articulates a remarkable window, to the complex and living culture of those of and living on Quandamooka country; both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal at the time of minings end on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island). It bespeaks of reconciliation in action in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal relations and in our collective relationship to Country – be it the homelands of our ancestors or those of anothers.
2019 is the year mining is set to end on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island), thanks to Native Title determinations of 2011.
This portrait came about after two years of audio recording with Uncle Bob Anderson. The swirling spirit of the land is seen here behind and below Spirit Man as he replaces the footprints of the ancestors on former mining lease. The process involved in the painting of this work, is one of reconciliation in action recognising this momentous occasion in Australia’s post-colonial history.
Dr Robert V Anderson OAM, Uncle Bob is a Nughi (Moreton Island) elder and patriarch of Quandamooka. This 2010 portrait image of Uncle Bob – Gheebulum (traditional name for the Moreton Island sandhill dune) connected Uncle Bob and Jo Fay Duncan intimately.
Pre-dating the native title determinations on Minjerriba, it speaks something of the 17- year struggle to have the traditional homelands of Quandamooka returned to Aboriginal peoples. Mulgumpin (Moreton Island) is currently under Native Title claim.
Uncle Bob Anderson is a long-time collaborator with Jo Fay Duncan.
Islands of Innocence was a media installation encompassing projection and audio in the old asylum ward replica at the North Stradbroke Island Museum on Minjerribah August 12, 2018.
The islands of Cassim, Lord Howe, Morovo Lagoon in the Solomons and Minjerribah were land and sea scapes chartered over a period of three months in late 2018 by curator and researcher, Jo Kaspari. The media itself references a rich research ecology undertaken over 24 months evident in this Small Islands Blog.
Islands of Innocence followed the 2017 Two Island Tribute installation which explored a development plan intending to build 3500 units over reclaimed land on Nandeebie’s (Cleveland) foreshore. In so doing the intertwined island ecologies of Cassim and Sandy would be dessemated. The underwater geologies, ecological diversity and integrity of Cassim and Sandy Islands are such that they were included in Ramsar zoning of 113 314 hectares of Moreton Bay in 1974.
In the face of the ever-present threat of development, the art work in Islands of Innocence some 12 months later explores global-wide threats to islands and related habitats which include mining, over population and indeed development.
Notions of innocence, ancestry and aesthetics explored in this multi layered media installation are qualities which here stand in the face of these threats; a poetic, an aesthetic disruptor to the bureaucratic monologue about an ‘economic transition strategy’ away from mining on Minjerriba and $444 million grants to save the Great Barrier Reef.
Since 1949 sand mining has been active on Minjerribah. Its impact on people and Country is spoken about in Oodgeroo Noonukul’s poem Time is Running Out. The poem was published in the 1970 publiciation My people: a Kath Walker collection. This poem along with audio recording of Uncle Bob Anderson that speaks about mining’s end is included in this installation.
In 2011 the then state government made legislation to action Native Title in the region, extend national parks and put an end to mining on Minjerriba. After a change in government and subsequent High Court challenge mining the island is set to end in 2019.
The High Court of Australia ruled in 2017 to overturn legislation to prolong sand mining, as the extension of mining leases on the island brought into question the rights of Native Title holders across the Country.
Similarly, to allow foreshore development of Toondah Harbour and Cassim Island on reclaimed land of the bay in an internationally recognised Ramsar site, contravenes precisely what Ramsar Convention was set up to achieve: the protection of these locations.
Threats to island habitats are largely born of human centric practices.
Mapping (and mining) the Bay has been a prolific undertaking by many and various individuals and entities in the last 70 years.
Embodied in the maps depicted in this installation, are the imagined underwater geologies from the Last Glaciel period, charting of Moreton Bay by sea farers, political zoning by governments and bird habitats – to name but a few. Included is a map of Native Title over MInjerribah which has created it’s own complex divisions in the community and a Jandal language map of Minjerriba.
The north wall projection references mapping, mining and development in the Bay. Development is depicted in the 3D rendering of the intended Toondah Harbour development.
Mining Downunder Sibelco QLD was a film generated by Visage Productions in 2012 at the time of controversial over turning of mine closure. ‘Mining has stolen the foot prints of my ancestors’ is a theme often articulated in audio recordings with Uncle Bob over the past 24 months. In this installation he speaks of the significance of song and dance. And of walking Country to Aboriginal people and walking once again on the lands (currently still under mining lease) denied them.
The pristine waters of Morovo Lagoon in the Solomon Islands were depicted on the south wall; it’s corals untouched by ocean bleaching and marine inhabitants diverse and prolific as seen in footage by travel companion Dave Hannan of Ocean Ark Alliance, deep water cinematographer and sometimes island resident. Over laying this is original music composed by 16 year-old Leon D.N. – it’s mood one of wonder and journeying.
Lord Howe island is one of a few breeding sites for the sotty tern on the east coast of Australia. Their isolation and sheer volume leave their time immemorial routine unperturbed by human contact, . Children visiting this site in breeding season are pictured here harnessing something of the innocence and reverence essential if we are to preserve earth’s natural habitats.
The media installation explored the idea of innocence and innocence lost be that through; mining, development or human’s prolific presence in the terrain.
The projections themselves are not limited to a single small screen. Instead they overlay the human centric and pinned histories of the island on the white walls of the old asylum building’s interior. North and south wall projections contrasting very different depictions and also decimations of ‘innocence’.