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Maitland Regional Art Gallery (MRAG) and Maitland City Council (MCC), with additional support from the Migration Heritage Centre NSW, is excited to present the first in a series of artistic and historic exhibitions focused on the many waves of migration to regional NSW with a specific focus on the Hunter Valley in NSW.

Hanna Kay was commissioned to create this exhibition because her evocative style of painting figurative images of land and the influence of nature made her an ideal choice. Kay also understands the fabric of the Jewish faith and she often travels past the cemetery on her weekly trips to teach Hebrew at the University of Sydney.

Kay was born in Israel and has travelled and lived in Europe, America and has now settled in the Upper Hunter in NSW. This exhibition tells the story of displacement and migration in regional NSW during colonial times. Philip Adams, writer and long time friend of Kay, described the paintings in the exhibition Undertow as ‘intensely beautiful and deeply moving; and they are a paradox’.

Australia's history of migration can be understood in the context of world history and British colonial and Australian Federal Government policies. All people in Australia share the legacy of migration. Unless we are Aboriginal people, we are all migrants or descendants of migrants. For the exhibition Undertow MRAG has adopted the philosophy of the Migration Heritage Centre NSW in which a more representative heritage is preserved for future generations that aims to validate migrants' experiences and challenge myths and prejudices.

Undertow is an exhibition created by Hanna Kay who was commissioned to create a series of paintings that is influenced and informed by the Jewish Cemetery in Maitland; one of only two ‘stand alone’ Jewish Cemeteries in regional NSW. Along with the cemetery itself, the exhibition and accompanying catalogue tells the story of the people buried there as a way to re-tell the story of the Jewish community in colonial Maitland.

Historian and academic Janis Wilton OAM also contributed to the exhibition with a historical study that flanks the exhibition Undertow. Wilton researched the stories of the people buried at the cemetery and the stories of the place itself; the people buried there, the communities from which they came, the lives they led and their place in Maitland’s history.

The exhibition Undertow will travel to at least 7 locations across the east coast of Australia over an eighteen month period. Venues include Broken Hill, Orange, Tamworth, Moree in NSW, Stanthorpe and Dalby in Queensland and The Jewish Museum of Australia in Melbourne.

4th April 2011 - Maitland Regional Art Gallery received the National Trust Heritage Award for Interpretation and Presentation, Corporate/Government, for Undertow - the Maitland Jewish Cemetery Project

Here are the judges' comment:
Judges’ Comments – National Trust Heritage Awards: Interpretation and Planning, Corporate/Government Category:

A remarkable and visionary project, which sought to revive interest in the small forgotten 1840s cemetery of some fifty graves. The outcomes have encompassed an exhibition of artworks inspired by the Cemetery, with interpreting catalogues and education program, a wonderful published history, and similar projects that have been initiated within other regional and rural communities. A truly remarkable outcome for the modest resources invested, demonstrating the discoverable relevance and importance of heritage places, and how the celebration can inspire other communities.


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