Outside the city museum in Sydney Australia I stood behind one of the 29 pillars that symbolize the 29 aboriginal clans around Sydney in 1778 when the first convict settlers arrived. Edge of The Trees, the name of the artwork comes from a historical essay describing the event from the new arrivals perspective…. “struggling through the surf they were met on beaches by other people looking at them from the edge of the trees.“
As you walk through the ‘forest’, voices in the Koori language speak the names of the 29 aboriginal clans and the places where they lived.
Some pillars have hair, shell, bone, feathers, ash and honey embedded in them and the names of native plants now extinct have been carved or burned into the wooden columns.
Because the piece is interactive you can stand among the pillars and try to imagine what it might have been like for the aboriginal people to watch the arrival of colonists who were about to change their lives forever.
I wish those of us whose families immigrated to countries and took over aboriginal lands, could go back in time and put ourselves for just a moment in the shoes of the people who saw us arrive in the places they’d called home for thousands of years. Would that change our present perspective and attitudes?
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