This is the last post for the residency, 12 months of finding ways that the tree and I can work together. I feel like it’s been a year about learning to trust and listen. A year of reaching out, growing, working with community through the workshops, collaborations and exhibitions, its been exciting, scary and rewarding. I’m full of gratitude for all the people, places and knowledge that have been shared with me.
Now its time for me to go and digest all of this, to go and make some work, to go and do more research. I’ve realised how important it is to know your own ancestry and where possible to find out where exactly you are from.
I’d never taken much time to really know where I’m from. My families have been in Australia for 6 generations, I tried to do the short cut and had my DNA tested, I received a report with a diagram of what equates to a circle that sits over England, Germany, Ireland and a tiny spec in Norway.
For a while I thought this is enough, I was a bit disappointed there wasn’t any surprises. And then as I spent time listening to local Indigenous people tell the stories of their country and ancestors I realised that a quick fix DNA wasn’t enough. Someone said ‘why are you so interested in our culture, when you don’t know your own’. I thought about this, and talked to my Uncle who has been doing our family tree for years.
And there on the computer, thanks to my Uncle, Aunty and Grandfather are 19,000 names and snippets of information about people that are in some way connected to me. That blows my mind, and is overwhelming, but its just a matter of time to trace these people and see where they are from.
I also find that looking at my Identity is very challenging, my entire life comes under scrutiny, what is my culture, my language, who are my people. Where do I fit into this country. As a child growing up I saw the indigenous camps on the edge of town made from corrugated iron and discarded material, and I’m shamed to know, that I didn’t question the story behind this inequality.
Identity for me as an Australian of European ancestry living in South East Queensland has so many layers of complexity. And as I work with plants, their uses and their stories, I grapple with finding my voice, the one that I can own and have a right to use. There is no quick answer, or right or wrong, good or bad. I’ve begun to realise it has to be a day by day experience and sometimes that means being uncomfortable. Learning to be ok with that feeling has been a big lesson, not jumping to the conclusion that there must be a solution, something that can be ‘done’ to ‘help’.
My Connection to people and the place I now call home is so new, its six years that I’ve lived in this house, this state, that’s actually the longest I lived anywhere. And now that I’ve stopped the constant movement and searching, I can only look inside, or in the mirror to find a way of belonging. Now I take the time and begin to understand the journey of my ancestors, and what truly the colonisation that they brought with them means to me and the people that share this country.