'Self-portrait: in our country' 2002
© Julie Dowling. Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
Julie Dowling brings Indigenous history to the fore in her portraiture. Her work draws on the traditions of oral history and she collates and documents her family and community history, in portraiture. In this self-portrait, she reveals her innermost connections to her people's traditional lands by making her body the vessel that contains the memories and spirits of her maternal ancestors. Her right hand, pale though it may be in pigment, rests comfortingly on her female ancestor's hand, with her left hand, caressing the hair of a small child. The connections are inherent and revealing.
Dowling's statement accompanies this work:
I painted this self-portrait to express my feelings about returning to my grandmother's country, which is located near a small town called Yalgoo. My great uncle George Latham told me the story of when white people asked my ancestors to describe gold and where to find it. They said that gold looked like Yalgoo, which is the Badimaya/Budimia word for the fat deposits around the belly of a large goanna found in that area.
I am situated [in this painting] as a member of [my ancestors] with time not separating our mutual connection to this country.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010