The art, the story
When Indigenous Australians were originally threatened with rifles and pistols they were at first curious then shocked and finally distraught.
These loud and destructive weapons would become the symbol of tyranny that disempowered the first Australians and forced them to concede their lands. With their land taken, and therefore their culture fractured, the aggressors capitalized and again used their weapons to invoke and patrol the new governments laws - even though few indigenous people understood them. Failing to conform to the new laws would result in severe punishment with the gun often representing the judge and the jury. It is therefore the gun that represents the act of aggression that has oppressed Indigenous Australians.
Daniel Wickham, the conceptual artist for this collection, gathered working firearms that were the same models used during the time of invasion. He has collaborated with the Tiwi people in Northern Australia including close friends and established artists Mario Munkara, Nathaniel Pilakui and his father Salomon Nungamu. After careful negotiation, consent was granted to work on the themes and style for this unique art project to accurately portray the largest forced cultural change the indigenous people of this country have experienced.
Permission was initially denied by Tiwi elders to use the written message stick characters in the project, as this is sacred to the Tiwi people, however the English interpretation was accepted for use in the collection. It is therefore only through the generous support by the Tiwi Islanders that we can present this unique cross-cultural project that depicts the fusion of gun and culture.
As previously mentioned the concept of the weapons on display originates from the role firearms played in forcibly taking Indigenous lands. As the instrument used in the theft of the lands and to protect the same stolen assets, the gun becomes the symbol of colonization. Danny has then used this concept in a contemporary sense and implemented the use of traditional designs on the gunstock. Simply put, the use of traditional Tiwi designs on the gun represents the gun being used to steal a culture.
Daniel Wickham was born in North Queensland and is of English, Irish Welsh decent, a keen fisherman, lover of the great outdoors and has had the pleasure of hunting with aboriginal men and women of different clans on many occasions. Rare film of hunting with indigenous men, using English muskets and English sniders are among Daniels most treasured possessions.