Shadow of the spear
This work remembers and reveals. It remembers the honourable deeds of the artist’s ancestor and reveals the un-kept promise of George Augustus Robinson.Robinson worked in Tasmania as a conciliator to calm the rising conflict between local Aboriginal people and settlers (invaders). While there, he kept a log of events in which he recounted a deal he struck – in 1831, with Mannalargenna (the artist’s ancestor) about allowing Mannalargenna and his people to remain on their land, in total safety, if they stopped ‘their wonted [sic] outrages upon the whites’ – otherwise known as guerrilla style resistance.Mannalargenna was agreeable and offered swan eggs in appreciation or to cement the deal. But Robinson recanted and Mannalargenna and his people were soon after shifted off their land at Cape Portland to Flinders Island.Gough says, ‘scorching these words of George Augustus Robinson on pieces of Tasmanian oak timber was akin to burning into memory. This seemed both a natural and unnatural act, which corresponded to the casting of a spell’. Gough uses the shadow cast by the spears to demonstrate how history is easily revealed and concealed (Artist statement 1997).