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Un Magazine 9.2

QAG GOMA: Contemporary Queensland Art Poems

Ellen van Neerven

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2/20

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acontented slave

Can name six beaches
where deeper riots started
and haven’t finished
his moral necessity
synthetic polymer surfboards
with a human debt
when does a man
cease to be a man
standing up in the water
the foam
over print
standing, making contact
contact
meaning death

Wutan #2

mother on the other side of the river
your lips are pressed together
and you don’t answer my call
a great current
swallowed the sound
future does not hold in subtitles
got to weave that knowledge now
into baskets of stars
a pattern
in song in scarf in eyes
war cries
crocodile and music
and rocks tiptoeing across the river
like unsure words
maybe the hope is just about closing
shadow, green grey outside
when feeling disconnected
see all my family in a boat
at the mouth of the river

Their little black slaves, perished in isolation

I don’t want to go back in that room
this installation features reduced lighting
only when necessary
indentured domestic
locked up at night
please enter with caution
kerosene is a physical experience
they said it was for protection
it was all for our protection

Spectra of birds

In order of the most open
to the most closed
these are our birds
with beaks like milk carton spouts
shake before opening
they come with an expiry date
of 3–4 years
the tawny frogmouth
is so easy-to-flatten
bassian thrush – chocolate milk
brown cuckoo dover – bronze custard
sooky oystercatcher – tastes better with oil
water your gardens with milk
to neutralise the earth

GOMA Q: Contemporary Queensland Art, 11 July 2015 – 11 October 2015, is an exhibition at The Queensland Art Gallery Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) profiling new work by Queensland artists. I responded to Vernon Ah Kee’s acontented slave (2015), Mavis Ngallametta’s Wutan #2 (2014), Dave Harding’s Their little black slaves, perished in isolation (2015) and Madeleine Kelly’s Spectra of birds (2015). These pieces speak directly to questions of Queensland identity, looking both at the past and present. The colonial scars on this land and the people are revealed in Ah Kee’s surfboards and Harding’s simulated setting of the possession and disempowerment of young Aboriginal women working as domestics. Both Aurukun artist Ngallametta’s metaphysical painting and German-Australian artist Kelly’s milk carton birds communicate environmental threat through different perspectives.

Ellen van Neerven is a Yugambeh woman and author of Heat and Light. She is senior editor of the black&write! Indigenous writing and editing project.