Aletheia Casey / No Blood Stained the Wattle
This photographic work titled No Blood Stained the Wattle uses the violent conflicts and massacres of Tasmania’s colonisation to reflect on the mythical telling and mis-telling of Australian history.
Tasmania was occupied for an estimated 40,000 years by the Tasmanian Aborigines. This exclusive habitation of the land came to a conclusion with the British invasion in 1803 when their societies were irrevocably shattered by the conflicts of the frontiers. These conflicts and the eventual Black War which ensued was a small guerrilla war but of massive proportions for both sides of the conflict with the death per capita for Aboriginals and First Settlers alike higher than in any other war in the history of Australia (even those fought abroad).
This photographic series uses the Black War as a backdrop to examine the notion of deliberate historical forgetting and reflects on memory, national denial and loss.
The telling of Colonial history throughout Australia has told of the merit and progress of the New Settlers, who were explorers and pioneers in a new country, amid an unfriendly, harsh and hostile landscape. This narrative told of the greatness of the white man in conquering a vast and untamed land and focused on progress and modernity. Throughout this dialogue the voice of Tasmanian Aborigines has been silenced and the violence of the frontiers largely ignored. This mythical narrative served to reinforce stereotypes, and was fundamental in creating a nation state which justified the actions of the past, denied the history of the original occupants of the land, and created a distorted perspective of historical events.
Portraits of Indigenous Tasmanians throughout the series demonstrate bloodlines, attachment to place and belonging. The portraits and stories of Indigenous Tasmanians comment on the trajectory of bloodlines and aim to dispel the mythological understanding of ‘The Last Aborigine’. The portraits reflect on the importance of ancestry, culture, attachment to land and to a place of belonging.
The physical photographic films are painted with ochre and then scratched with various tools found in Tasmania to uncover diverse truths and perspectives of the past. The images are over-laid with landscape paintings from the same period in Tasmania to show the hypocrisy of history. Through the overlaying, scratching and re-working these images reflect the distortion and silencing of history, and by the constant degradation of the painted ochre on the surface of the film, which is continually changing and evolving, reflect our own evolving understanding of history.
Aletheia Casey is an Australian photographic artist based between Sydney and London. Using historical findings as a background to her stories, Aletheia’s work largely addresses cultural identity, place, and the influence of history in forming and shaping cultural and personal identity.
Aletheia works both as a photographer and photographic lecturer and has lectured at the Australian Centre for Photography, Macleay College (Sydney), Contact Sheet (Sydney) and guest lectured at the London College of Communication (London). She recently completed her Masters of Photojournalism and Documentary Photography through the London College of Communication, graduating with Distinction, and is a founding member of Lumina Collective.
Aletheia has exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery Canberra, Foto8 in London, The Royal Shakespeare Company UK, The National Geographic Society in London, The Truman Brewery in London, Black Eye gallery in Sydney, Photofusion in London, Contact Sheet in Sydney, the State Library of NSW, and at the Australian Centre for Photography, among others. Aletheia has twice been named a finalist for the Environmental Photographer of the Year Award and was named a winner of The Magenta Foundation Flash Forward Emerging Photographer Award for the UK in 2012 and 2015. During 2014 Aletheia was mentored by Magnum Photos as part of the Ideastap and Magnum Photos Photographic Award and was named a finalist for the award. She was a finalist for the National Photographic Portrait Prize, and the Iris Award at the Perth Centre for Photography and the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photograph Award (winners to be announced later this year).
Images from No Blood Stained the Wattle are currently on show at Photofusion, London until 26 September – 16 November 2018 in the exhibition ‘Interventions and Interruptions’.
Full captions for images at right, from the series No Blood Stained the Wattle © Aletheia Casey:
1. Eliza Pross is a descendant of Truganini who is famed as being one of the last full blooded Tasmanian Aboriginals. Eliza’s family is from Bruny Island, the home of Truganini.
2. North of Hobart. Site of the Black Line, 1830: As a result of the on-going conflicts between New Settlers and Indigenous Tasmanians Governor Aurthur called for every British man to form a human chain to capture and kill Aboriginal clans. ‘ The Black Line” was the largest force ever assembled against Aborigines anywhere in Australia. Those captured were forcibly removed to a remote island around 200km from the Tasmanian mainland called Flinders Island, where many later died from influenza.
3. Settled Districts, Hobart area, 1828: Martial law is declared against Aboriginal clans in the Settled Districts around Hobart, and Indigenous Tasmanians are now considered ‘Open enemies of the King.’
4. Sally Peak, 1823. Aboriginal men kill two stock-keepers in reprisal for the abduction and rape of Aboriginal women. Stock-keepers attack and kill an unknown number of Aboriginal men in retaliation.
5. Hills surrounding Liffey Falls,1827. Settlers on a reprisal raid for the murder of a stock-keeper were reported to have killed ‘an immense quantity’ of Aboriginal people at Liffey Falls.
6. David Pross is Eliza Pross’s cousin and is from the same bloodline as Truganini who is famed as being one of the last full blooded Tasmanian Aboriginals. David’s mother was Dutch and his father was an Indigenous Tasmanian.
7. Risdon Cove Massacre, 1804. Facts about deaths at this site are highly debated. One group claim that less than three Aboriginal people were killed during the conflict, while the majority of historians claim that over 30 Aboriginals were killed. Image is over-laid with a John Glover painting and an original photograph of the site.
8. Peter Shine’s bloodline can be traced back to one of the last full blooded Tasmanian Aboriginals: Truganini.
9. Cate Pross’s bloodline can be traced back to both Truganini from Bruny island, and Fanny Cochrane Smith, both considered to be two of the last full blooded Tasmanian Aboriginals.
10. Liffey Falls massacre site over-laid with a John Glover Painting.
11. Matt Pross’s bloodline can be traced back to both Truganini from Bruny island, and Fanny Cochrane Smith, both considered to be two of the last full blooded Tasmanian Aboriginals.
12. Risdon Cove Massacre, 1804. Facts about deaths at this site are highly debated. One group claim that less than three Aboriginal people were killed during the conflict, while the majority of historians claim that over 30 Aboriginals were killed. Image is over-laid with a John Glover painting and an original photograph of the site.
13. Hobart area, 1826. Following the alleged killing of 118 colonists by Aboriginal men in the settled districts the government authorised police magistrates to treat all Aboriginal people as ‘open enemies’. This measure was considered by the press as a declaration of war against the Aborigines and was the beginning of what is known as “The Black War”
14. East Coast of Tasmania, 1829/1830. Settler Robert Ayton wrote to the colonial secretary and said: “On this occasion not less than sixteen were massacred and gathered into heaps and buried.”
15. Bruny Island, Tasmania. The original home of Truganini, one of the last full blooded Tasmanian Aboriginals. Truganini witnessed her mother being killed by whalers. Her fiance was also killed while saving her from abduction, and in 1828, her two sisters abducted and sold as slaves.
16. Tasmania: Cape Grim, 1828. It is alleged that four shepherds employed by the Van Diemen’s Land Company shot dead 30 Aboriginals in retaliation for killing sheep. Official reports said that only six Aborigines were killed and then revised the number to three.
17. Christine Walsh’s great grandmother was an Aboriginal woman from mainland Tasmania however all birth records were burned in a fire. Christine’s Aboriginal ancestry traces back to Fanny Cochrane Smith who was the last full blooded Tasmanian Aboriginal woman.
18. Southern Districts of Tasmania, 1816 onwards. Kidnapping of Aboriginal Children becomes widespread. Government notices continue to outlaw the practice, to no avail. The deliberate removal of Indigenous children from their families to be placed into foster care, religious care and non-indigenous families continued well into the 1970s. The survivors of this atrocity are called The Stolen Generations.