"Explore the essence of identity and lineage in this interactive workshop delivered by intergenerational duo, Jodi and Tom Dickinson. We invite you to journey through time, tracing the evolution of our family’s Tasmanian Aboriginal ancestry from past to present.
A revelatory exploration for all, this workshop redefines the way we engage with history, identity and kin."
For the major exhibition Twist and in celebration of NAIDOC Week, my mother, Jodi Dickinson, and I proposed an interactive artwork titled "Who We Are // Where We Come From." This collaborative project aimed to explore the themes of family, legacy, inheritance, and fate, while also directly addressing the question of how our birth circumstances influence our future.
For me, it was an opportunity to work with my mum in a professional setting; a dream of mine that I would gladly do again.
For Jodi, it was an opportunity to share her dad's story. A story that has been repeatedly beat down by the TAC. "We are not Pala-Whites; we are Cape Barren Islanders." as my pop, Doug Maynard, would say.
This exhibition ultimately does not represent the story of all Tasmanian Aboriginals. Instead, it is Our Story, a testament to Who We Are and Where We Are From, a narrative that we are proud to share with the world.
Concept and Vision
From the beginning, our project was to be a small, abstract, and interactive modern art piece that shows our family's genealogy and cultural heritage. We knew it would feature four circular boards that can rotate and are arranged in a diamond shape. We played with the idea of sketching the faces onto the boards, but ultimately decided on photographs because nothing else would capture the life and history we wanted to capture. We especially wanted to capture the eyes because eyes say so much.
Each face is to be divided into quarters and placed on the boards, allowing viewers to rotate them and create a singular abstract face in the center—a mosaic of our family's diverse features, colors, and histories.
We played with many ideas and iterations; one being: printing cape barren island in the center of each circle
The artwork symbolizes the continuous flow of our Aboriginal identity and culture, showcasing how our ancestry, traditions, and stories have shaped who we are today. It invites viewers to engage with their own lineage and identity within their culture, fostering a sense of connection and pride in their heritage.
We were yet to finalize the exact design and construction details at the time of the proposal. At this point we were unsure how the wheels were going to turn, what materials we were using. We were unsure if the project was going to go through... because we didn't have pop's permission and the whole piece was centered around him.
Alignment with Themes
By exploring the themes of family, legacy, inheritance, and fate, "Who We Are // Where We Come From" was intended to resonate with the exhibition Twist and the 2023 NAIDOC Week theme, "For Our Elders." The artwork aimed to celebrate our Elders, their strength, resilience, and contributions, while also encouraging contemplation on the interplay between our past and present.
After deciding on two major components of the project – using a lazy susan mechanism for the circles to turn and constructing the entire thing out of perspex – we quickly got to work. We formed a partnership with a local company, Associated Plastics Tasmania, who cut and assembled the perspex for us. Additionally, we acquired the lazy susans from Bunnings at a cost of $4 each.
For the photos, I rented some camera gear off of local photographer, Jillian Mundy. Pop came down and we had a little shoot day
One major concern we had was obtaining permission from my pop, Doug Maynard, as the entire piece centered around him and his story. Ensuring his consent and comfort with the artwork's portrayal was crucial. Additionally, there was some technical challenges during the construction process, such as aligning the photographs precisely, sharpness of the photos, and problems with printing the photos onto perspex.
Throughout the project, working with Associated Plastics Tasmania was an absolute delight. They played a crucial role in handling much of the manual work, making the process so smooth and effiecient. In total, the costs were $2,400 for the entire project - this includes parking tickets, lunches, etc, etc.
As apart of the project, we delivered four workshops to children between the ages of 4 - 18. In these workshops we got the kids to create a tiny version of the project. They could bring in photos of their family from home, cut photos out of magazines, or draw.
This was my favourite part about this whole experience. I am a kid myself so working with kids is always a delight. Here are some photos from the workshops:
Conclusion and Final Result
Who We Are // Where We Come From was an attempt to tell my family’s story and pay our respects to our elders. It's a rare point in time where you can see how our aboriginility has travelled down the generations and a visual representation of the colours and complexities of our aboriginal skin changing, but still having that cultural connection through facial structure, personality, family, and knowledge.
This is a deeply personal project that involves family, both past and present. Collaborating with my mother has provided me a unique opportunity to draw inspiration from her and my personal elders, who are invaluable custodians of our cultural knowledge, resilience, and experiences. Their stories, unfortunately, have not been widely shared, but through this art installation, I hope to serve as a voice, student, and platform - amplifying the knowledge and narratives they have to offer to our community. By honoring our ancestors and celebrating our shared heritage, this project becomes a tribute to the strength and wisdom that has shaped our identity and collective journey