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"Government, Miners and Frackers Trample on our Law" 2023

Wall text

Wall text

Jack Green 
Born 1953, Wakaiya Country, Soudan Station, NT. Garrwa and Marra. Lives and works in Borroloola, NT. 

Pronouns: he/him.

 

"Government, Miners and Frackers Trample on our Law" 2023

 

synthetic polymer paint on canvas

Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2023.

 

Jack Green is a land rights activist, senior Mambaliya man, and cultural authority, whose artistic practice focuses on the continuum of unequal power relations between Indigenous peoples and white settlers in Australia. In this painting, Green narrates the destruction of Gudanji Country through extractive industrial practices at the McArthur River zinc–lead mine, which is currently the most toxic mining site in the Northern Territory. The work uses traditional storytelling to depict the visceral pain experienced by Indigenous peoples when their Country is exploited by settlers as a resource for capital gain. 

 

In regard to this work, the artist explains:

At the top of the painting, on the left, there’s a minister of government and a mining company man. They’re happy, as the minister signed off on the paperwork to make the mine even bigger. The same minister signs off on all the fracking applications too. ‘Make everything big’, she says. A small man with a yellow shirt waves his papers around saying, ‘Let’s go everybody, make it big, make a lot of money’. The miners and the frackers like to tell everyone that us Aboriginal people agree with them. They like photos of themselves with Aboriginal people all standing together arm in arm. But it’s not like that for us Aboriginal people around Borroloola. Us Garrwa, Gudanji, Marra and Yanyuwa with our songs, our ceremonies, our dances we hold the Law. It’s for us to decide what happens on our Country, no one else can do this under Aboriginal Law. Despite our Law, government, miners and frackers invade our Country with their bulldozers and drilling rigs. They wound our Country, destroy our sacred sites and put our lives at risk by polluting our water and desecrating our sacred sites. On the right of the painting is McArthur River mine. It’s a huge open cut wound where they keep digging a bigger and bigger hole and building a waste rock pile that smokes toxic fumes into the air and leaks acid into the ground water, creeks and river. The destruction of our Country hurts us so bad. We feel like an upside-down heart that has been pierced by the needle of a drilling rig boring into the heart of our culture.

 

The exploitation of Gudanji Country by mining company Glencore reflects the vitality of the mining industry to white Australia’s sense of nationhood. As author Tony Birch has argued, in order to legitimise sovereignty, the settler-colonial project continues to rely on a beatified, sacred notion of mining and capital extraction. Green’s painting demonstrates that these imperatives environmentally devastate and spiritually desecrate Country for Indigenous Australians, limiting the access of Traditional Custodians to the land. 
 

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