Project a fresh look at colonial story

By don.farmer@age.co.nz -
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ARTISTRY: An artistic image included in Unsettled and titled Reverend Mitchell Melt, made by corroding archival images and printing them on to film using strong acids. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED
ARTISTRY: An artistic image included in Unsettled and titled Reverend Mitchell Melt, made by corroding archival images and printing them on to film using strong acids. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

An Australian academic who grew up in Greytown is leading a unique project focusing on the majestic Flinders Ranges in South Australia.

Dr Grayson Cooke, son of Greytown lawyers Ed and Juliet Cooke, is spearheading Unsettled - Colonial Ruin in the Flinders Ranges with his "collaborator" Dea Morgain.

Now Associate Professor of Media at Southern Cross University in northern New South Wales, Dr Cooke did his undergraduate studies at Victoria University in Wellington and went on to do his PhD at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.

Inspired by a travel feature on the Flinders Ranges in the Times-Age which he read online, Dr Cooke revealed he was in the middle of the project which is about " rethinking colonial ruin in the Flinders".

"We are partnered with the State Library of South Australia and the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association with the project due to be exhibited in the State Library in Adelaide next March," he said.

Unsettled questions conventional stories told about Australia's colonial past, through a blend of media art, archival research and interviews with Adnyamathanha people and others of the Flinders Ranges.

"We think this project is really important in terms of Australian history and identity ... The Flinders Ranges are immensely significant for their geological richness, but they are archives of human struggle as well," Dr Cooke said.

He said as a site filled with colonial ruins, the Flinders offers the opportunity to move beyond the nostalgia typical of settler-colonial representations, unearthing stories frequently obscured by colonial rubble.

"The stories, for instance, of the Adnyamathanha people upon whose lands the colonial ruins stand."

Dr Cooke said growing up in Wairarapa gave him a very strong sense of country and landscape.

"I've lived in cities for a lot of my life but I find that I'm still drawn to projects that engage with the natural world and with regional areas."

He said the project will feature archival images, documentary interviews and media art.

"We have spent countless hours in the area and still absolutely love it - there is no place on earth like the Flinders."

The project has received MATCH funding from the Australian Cultural Fund (ACF), which means if the artists reach their $10,000 target, the ACF will match this amount with funds from philanthropic donations.

Co-producer Dea Morgain said they were really excited to be crowd-funding the costs for the exhibition.

"Funding academic and creative research through public funds is a great test of the cultural worth of a project - we think this project is of national significance both for its focus on the Flinders, and also through its use of archival imagery.

"For instance, we will be using some of the State Library's incredible images that Charles Mountford shot at the Nepabunna Aboriginal Mission in the 1930s - beautiful candid portraits of people that markedly depart from the anthropological tendencies of the time."

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