A 2,500-metre artwork comprised of more than 2,000 maraong manaóuwi/broad arrow designs created by Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Jonathan Jones, is set to sprawl across the entire courtyard of Sydney’s Hyde Park Barracks from 21 February to 15 March, as part of the City of Sydney’s Art & About program, a year-round celebration of creativity presented in unusual places, and coincides with the re-opening of the World Heritage-listed Hyde Park Barracks in the wake of recent renovations.
Jones is a Sydney-based Aboriginal artist whose art practice takes him across the fields of printmaking and drawing to sculpture and film. He creates site-specific installations and interventions into space that uses light, subtle shadow and the repetition of shape to explore Indigenous practices, relationships and ideas.
This major new commission, untitled (maraong manaóuwi), sees Jones bring two remarkably similar-looking symbols, yet which tell two distinctly different stories and experiences of the same historical period in Australia. The maraong manaóuwi is the Gadigal term for ‘emu footprint’. The emu is a significant animal to many Aboriginal communities and is one of the few creatures where the father rears the young, and thus speaks to community aspirations of strong family values around fatherhood.
The English broad arrow insignia represents British colonialism; imperial ownership and the convict labour force that was responsible for the expansion of Sydney and in turn, the dispersal of First Peoples from their homelands.
Of the work, Jones says, ‘this installation explores the site’s history within a contemporary framework. Both these symbols talk to specific cultural ideas – two different narratives embedded in the one landscape that continues to inform our society. At the heart of this project is how we construct history, how we live with history, and how history overlaps and speaks to the different communities in different ways.’
Visitors are encouraged to walk over the artwork, which has been created by Jones using red and white gravel sourced from Wiradjuri Country, which will play a role in the disintegration of the installation. As the bichromatic gravel mixes the emu tracks and broad arrows together, our focus is drawn to the importance of protecting and preserving cultural sites.