Key Themes: Contemporary War Memorial; Indigenous Histories of Place
- Does the steel and chain structure remind you of anything else?
- This artwork is an installation of different types of elements. Looking carefully, what parts do you interpret as being part of the artwork?
- Examine the visual information you can find. What, or whom, do you think the subject of the artwork might be?
- The artists have described Standing by Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner as a war memorial. How does it compare and contrast other western war memorials that you have seen? The Shrine of Remembrance is a prominent local example.
Brook Andrew and Trent Walter have collaborated artistically many times, with Walter screen printing many of Andrew’s well known two-dimensional artworks. This is the first time that the two artists have worked on a public installation together.
In 2015, Melbourne City Council invited artists to propose an artwork to serve as a permanent memorial to Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner, two young Indigenous Tasmanian men who, in 1842, were sentenced to death and hung nearby to the site of the installation – while a crowd of five-thousand colonists watched.
“It is a war memorial, absolutely. Except it’s not rendered in Western fashion.” – Brook Andrew
Like many Western war memorials Standing by Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner focuses on a specific event to symbolise a larger history of the many frontier battles between Indigenous peoples and colonial settlers/invaders across Australia. The word memorial is directly related to the word memory, and in this way we can understand that anything called a memorial is intended to help people to remember.
Significantly, in Melbourne there is very little, if any, public artwork that references the trauma sustained by Indigenous peoples in the process of colonisation/invasion. By contrast, there are many memorials to fallen soldiers of other wars. The Shrine of Remembrance is a prime example of how the need for a place to grieve for families of fallen soldiers was fulfilled. Andrew and Walter’s artwork is very significant for acknowledging histories that are central to the history of Melbourne, and for giving Indigenous people whose descendants were killed in colonial conflicts a public place dedicated to remembrance of those lost members of community.
For the 2016 ACCA exhibition Sovereignty Wadawurrung Elder Aunty Marlene Gilson contributed Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner 2015, which depicts the day of the hanging of the two young men in Franklin Street, Melbourne. If you look closely, you can see large crowds of spectators in the vicinity of the gallows. After the exhibition, the City of Melbourne purchased Gilson’s painting of this important historical event for the city collection.