Cage of Ghosts, an exhibition of powerful black and white photographs detailing the surviving physical evidence of Aboriginal occupation in south-eastern Australia, opens at the National Library of Australia on Thursday 27 September.
Jon Rhodes, one of Australia’s most important documentary photographers, has created this exhibition of evocative and provocative images, which challenge existing ideas about the preservation of important Indigenous sites.
Scarred trees in the front gardens and parks of suburban Canberra; rock engraving sites across Sydney; ceremonial places next to golf courses, houses and roads; carved trees in NSW schools and museums; and painted caves in the Grampians are a statement about what our modern society, in its efforts to preserve Aboriginal cultural places, has created.
Rhodes has lived and worked in many Aboriginal communities during a career spanning more than three decades. In 1990, he lived in Western Australia with a group of Pintupi he first met in 1974. The resulting photographs were shown in the exhibition Whichaway? that toured Australia from 1998 to 2002. He was the recipient of the ANU’s H.C. Coombs Creative Arts Fellowship in 2006.
Cage of Ghosts, the result of a long-term project, further develops Rhodes’ focus on using photographs as a way of storytelling, and documenting change and the passing of time.
“Many of the 36 sites depicted would be eventually destroyed if nothing was done to safeguard them. Yet the process of protection frequently succeeds in preserving only the objects, which are now reduced in meaning, deprived of ceremonial significance and devoid of spirit,” Rhodes said.
Cage of Ghosts, 27 September – 25 November 2007, open daily 9 am – 5 pm, free
High-resolution images are available for download at http://www.nla.gov.au/media/