The recent proppaNOW exhibition in Hobart received enormous support and positivity with ‘The Black Line’ being formally opened by Jimmy Everett, playwright, poet, political activist and good friend of proppaNOW members.
Richard Bell and Megan Cope traveled to Tasmania for the opening. To accompany the exhibition Megan Cope wrote a small essay in response to a document she found while researching material for ‘The Black Line’, the document is a British Military map ordered by the House of Commons, 1830.
The Black Line
This map is a powerful document that illustrates the intention, by the British Military, to initiate a process of ‘abolition’ against the Aboriginal people throughout the interior and east coast of Tasmania.
As an artist, I am interested in the power of suggestion and how we interact with maps. To this day, Australia revels in a settler/colonial hegemonic imagination. This map suggests successful elimination (the extinguishment of the Aborigine in Tasmania) and perpetuates a myth of such vitriolic feat.
The settler/colonial state renders Aboriginal peoples’ resistance to the brutality of colonial occupation from existence. And for many this is a mindset that continues to lurk in the periphery of the nation’s psyche. For an increasingly patriotic, ‘ANZAC’ proud, yet warless generation, the act and process of war symbolises power, strength, sophistry, and technology, and signifies for the fearful masses, a security in borders, territory, land, and society.
Though evidenced in numerous accounts, and heavily disputed in the ‘History Wars’ of the 1990s, the Aboriginal wars and prolonged Resistance is a narrative still largely invisible in telling the Australian story.
“In fact their attacks evinced ‘a cunning and superiority of tactic which would not disgrace some of the greatest military characters’” The Police magistrate of Richmond noted that “the peculiar nature and habits of these savages gave them a decided superiority over Europeans”(Reynolds, The Fate of a Free People, 1995)
Instead, texts such as the following are more readily available for research and echo in the minds of everyday Australians.
BLACK LINE, The Black War intensified in Tasmania during the mid to late 1820’s and escalated further in the 1830 winter when a number of settlers were killed. Seemingly incapable of ending the violence, Lieutenant Governor George Arthur in August 1830 authorized a military strategy to push all Aborigines of the Tasmanian mainland into the Tasman and Forestier peninsulas in the southeast. (Mitchell Rolls, Murray Johnson, Historical Dictionary of Australian Aborigines. 2010.)
Megan Cope, 2014