Tasmania's brutal past is under the microscope as four First Nations artists reinterpret a statue of the state's 14th premier.
By
Sarah Collard

Source:
The Point
12 Oct 2021 - 5:18 PM  UPDATED 12 Oct 2021 - 5:18 PM

The rugged land of Nuenonne, or Bruny Island as it’s now known, has been a haven for artist Allan Mansell for more than 30 years. 

The celebrated artist has 'stirred the pot' for decades, and his latest project is no different, as he turns his attention to the statue of William Crowther in the centre of Hobart. 

Many Aboriginal people consider the state's 14th premier William Crowther a violent butcher and 'body snatcher', who notoriously mutilated the body of Indigenous leader William Lanne in the name of research. 

Mr Mansell chose to represent this gruesome history by covering the statue in red paint, and adorning it with an axe and an Aboriginal flag. 

"The red represents the blood that was spilt between our people and Europeans," the plangermaireener artist told NITV's The Point program. 

"It’s got to be blood, it’s got to be red and it’s gotta be telling the truth about what this man was really was about." 

'Most of our people were killed': Truth-telling the history of Gayiri Country
After a terrible 160-year-old massacre made headlines because of its links to AFL and cricket pioneer Tom Wills, Keira Jenkins travelled to Gayiri Country and found a landscape still haunted by its past.

Mansell said art can be used to convey powerful political messages that people may be otherwise unwilling to engage with. 

He wants the broader community to have a greater understanding of Tasmania's violent history and the revered figures of its past. 

"Too many people are attached to the past and their families don't want to be degraded because they did bad things in the past.

"But they need to get on with it. That's what the say to us." 

He is one of four artists invited by the City of Hobart to provide a commentary on the man heralded in his time as a doctor and scientist, in a unique year-long truth-telling project. 

Another contributing artist Julie Gough covered up the statue in her work Breathing Space, in the hopes that it would give some reprieve to the local First Nations community. 

"Most of us avoid walking past him at the very least and most of us feel ill about having this pride of place right in the center of town," Ms Gough said.

"Aboriginal people here are well aware of what he did. He was basically a body snatcher of Aboriginal human remains, our ancestors remains." 

Artist Jillian Mundy’s work will be the final in the series, to be unveiled next month.

"Having these different installations or responses to the Crowther statue will give passers-by... and the city of Hobart a better understanding of our history, and not just written through a sanitised white-washed view," she said.

The journalist and photographer said many Tasmanians appeared to be reluctant to understand the state's history. 

"I meet people from overseas or I have had friends come from interstate and they are astounded by how resistant the broader community are to the true history of this island," Ms Mundy said.

"So much is swept under the carpet or missing," Ms Mundy said. 

Artist Roger Scholes' work meanwhile centred around the life of William Lanne, which he believed had been overshadowed by what happened to him after he died.

William Lanne, also known as King Billy, was a fierce advocate for his people and sailed the seas as a whaler in the 1860s.

As a brutal war raged in Tasmania he became the third husband of Tasmanian Indigenous leader Truganini before his death. 

Mr Scholes, together with artist Greg Lehman, created a film to honour Lanne which played inside the pair's mixed media piece.

"We wanted to tell his story, and let his story come out from under this sort of dark story about what happened to him when he was dead," Mr Scholes said. 

For more on this story tune into NITV's flagship current affairs program The Point at 7.30pm on NITV, and later on SBS and SBS On Demand.

Tasmanian path to treaty and truth-telling welcomed
The state government will consult with the palawa about a way forward for a truth-telling process and what a pathway to a treaty would consist of.