Author(s): Emma Pike
For the 32nd Kaldor Public Art Project Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones presented barrangal dyara (skin and bones), a vast sculptural installation stretching across 20,000 square-metres of the Royal Botanic Garden.
The Project recalled the 19th century Garden Palace building where it originally stood in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden, before it devastatingly burnt to the ground along with countless Aboriginal objects collected along the colonial frontier. The project was Jones’ response to the immense loss felt throughout Australia due to the destruction of these culturally significant items. It represented an effort to commence a healing process and a celebration of the survival of the world’s oldest living culture despite this traumatic event.
Thousands of bleached white shields echoed masses of rubble—the only remnants of the building after the fire—and raised the layered history and bones of the Garden Palace across the site. A native kangaroo grassland formed the heart of the installation, and was enlivened by presentations of Indigenous language, performances, talks, special events and workshops each day.
The project connects directly with many Aboriginal communities throughout the south-east of Australia, who collaborated to reframe local history. The artwork took its name, barrangal dyara, meaning ‘skin and bones,’ from the local Sydney Gadigal language, on whose country the project took place with approval from the community.