2013/0003.1-15 Sacrifice



Michael RILEY
Dubbo, New South Wales
31 Aug 2004
Sydney, New South Wales


silver gelatin print
16.0 x 25.0 cm (image)30.5 x 40.5 cm (paper) (Height x Width x Depth)
Credit line
Purchased through the Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation: TomorrowFund, 2013
State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia
Accession Number
Currently on display (GALLERY 9 in GALLERY BUILDING)


Extended Label

As Aboriginal people, we have to sacrifice ourselves, something of ourselves, all the time to be a bit more like what non-Aboriginal people want us to be. Sacrifice was the first conceptual exhibition; the first time I had reflected on Christianity, and history of mission life, Aboriginal missions. I was exploring images from childhood – being sent to Sunday School and wondering what the hell this strange concept of religion is for an Aboriginal kid growing up in the bush. It’s about history, about how Aboriginal people were thrown onto reserves and missions and told not to speak languages, not to conduct ceremony or song. MRMichael Riley described Sacrifice as his first ‘conceptual’ photographic series; within this definition, it precedes flyblown 1998 and cloud 2000. The 15 black-and-white images focus on icons and symbols of the degradation of Aboriginal culture. Riley addresses the repercussions of an imposed religion and reflects on the effects of substance abuse; both implicated in the ongoing processes of conquering and colonisation and the sacrifices Aboriginal people have had to make as a result. Sacrifice was the first time Riley had discussed Christianity in his work, a theme which reappears in later series flyblown and cloud, and several of his films. The series Sacrifice is held in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.(Sourced from Michael Riley's website)

Artist statement, 2006The Sacrifice series, really what I was exploring there was how Aboriginal people were put on to reserves and missions like in the 1940s and earlier and regimented and told not to speak language, not to act as culture and you would have different tribal groups thrown in together. Some of the images in Sacrifice, like with the spoons, that’s symbolic of addiction, like heroin addiction. The row of sardine, the fish, it’s like how on reserves people were lined up and regimented and everyone have their place and everything. The image of flour, sugar and tea, that was like the staple you’d get every week on the reserve, the mission, and that’s sort of all you got. Yes. I suppose, yes, just reflecting on that period of time when people did sort of start to lose culture, lose language, lose things, you know, because of the assimilation process and people trying, the government trying to put people on reserves to be good Christian Aboriginal people (Riley, Sights Unseen, 2006)

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