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Colonial Seeds

New artwork by Boneta-Marie Mabo

Aboriginal Art Co is proud to present the latest body of work created by Boneta-Marie Mabo through the Safe Space Artist-in-Residency Program, supported by Brisbane City Council. 

Boneta-Marie is a proud Aboriginal, Munburra/Nywaigi and Torres Strait, Meriam woman as well as being of South Sea Islander descent. Walking in the footsteps of her grandfather, the late Eddie Koiki Mabo, she is an activist and a passionate prison abolitionist which is reflected in her recent works. 

Colonial Seeds is the result of Boneta-Marie’s eight week artist residency at Aboriginal Art Co. The Safe Space residency allowed the artist to experiment with a variety of mediums as well as the opportunity to undergo extensive research to develop this new body of work. 

As a part of the residency, artists are introduced to institutions and staff to assist the research process. Neta-Rie chose to explore the collections at the Queensland State Archives, looking at the history of children prisons, for girls within Queensland.  

There was an interest in the Western ideology behind entrapment, displacement and confinement as a means of punishment or “protection”. 

Detention centres she visited had unit blocks named after native flora and fauna which was a confusing imagery as much of these were in an abundance before being destoyed through colonisation. 

Her research first delved into the invention of the 19th century Wardian Case, which “preserves” plants and transports them across the globe.

Young women that she works with, are not given an opportunity to be nurtured to grow. They are like seeds yet to be grounded. 

Boneta-Marie designed nine seed packets featuring plants brought to Australia on the First Fleet. Despite the plants featured, all the seed packets are filled with poppy seeds commenting on the “protection” act, specifically, the Protection of Aboriginals and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Amendment Act 1934. 

The seed packets and accompanied prints are aesthetically pleasing as Neta-Rie wanted audiences to engage with the imagary. Upon closer inspection you can find that each of the seed packets are named after Queensland prisons that incarcerated girls. Many of these institutions, instead of being called a prison, use language such as ‘youth detention’ and ‘reformatory school’.

Boneta-Marie explains, “Language is powerful and when we use more palatable titles, we as a society can ignore our responsibilities to collectively care for our communities and continue the brutalisation of children. While these institutions have different names, on the inside they are all prisons. With the introduction of these seeds, the colonial concept of carceral ideologies also made its way to Aboriginal lands.”

This exhibition is embedded with symbolic meaning and metaphors commenting on child prisons. Highly influenced by her primary job at Sisters Inside, supporting criminalised women and girls, and their children, both inside and outside prison. With the proposal of a new carceral unit in Northern Queensland, this body of work invites viewers to think more critically about the need for these institutions and where the ideology of confinement stems from. 

Blog written by Logan Bobongie, 2022.

Artist video by Dean Swindle, 2022.

Safe Space Artist-in-Residency Program is supported by Brisbane City Council through the Lord Mayor’s Creative Fellowships.

Aboriginal Art Co is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland, Australian Government through Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support (IVAIS), with philanthropic support from Tim Fairfax Family Foundation (TFFF). 


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