In rruytina: above and below, artist Neika Lehman recovers and reconnects the stories buried at Australia’s first offshore detention centre, paying tribute to the Aboriginal women buried there.
In 1832, the Government of Van Dieman’s Land sent what they thought to be the last Aboriginal freedom fighters into exile at Wybalenna, Flinders Island. Marking the presumed end of Tasmania’s Black War, Wybalenna settlement introduced a new set of struggles for justice for Tasmanian Aboriginal people. Wybalenna, now the site of a crumbling church, holds the unmarked graves of over one hundred Aboriginal people who never made it home.
A descendant of the Aboriginal activists portrayed in the 1992 documentary film, Black Man’s Houses, Neika Lehman revisits the history and current conditions of Wybalenna settlement and works to repatriate the stories of six Aboriginal women across mainland Tasmania.
In this immersive film installation, multiple screens are positioned like portals, using Indigenous astronomy to navigate the viewer back to the sites of the stories. The exhibition meditates on the variant ecosystems that bear these women’s stories, alongside the material conditions of current day Wybalenna. The films capture the site itself – the earth and rock, the church, and the sheep-bitten hills, alluding to what lies above and below.
This work contains some mature themes.
Mature themes: themes relating to abuse of power and privilege, themes of racism and references to racism and references to oppression.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers should be advised that this exhibition contains the names and stories of deceased Tasmanian Aboriginal peoples
rruytina: above and below is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria, and the City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program.
Neika Lehman’s artwork rruytina: above and below is powered by Lūpa Media Player. More information at lupaplayer.com
Thanks to Maikutena Vicki-Laine Green, Elder
Neika Lehman is a writer and artist living and working on KulinCountry. Neika works in freelance and institutional spaces across publishing, academia and film. Their recent work has featured in Australian publications such as The Saturday Paper, The Lifted Brow, un Magazine, and Art Almanacamong others. They have curated and exhibited in several shows across Melbourne and Hobart | nipaluna. Neika speaks at national and international writers, film and arts festivals, gallery public programs and academic conferences.
Neika grew up in Tasmania | lutruwita and descends from the Trawlwoolway peoples of north east Tasmania. Their ancestral and contemporary stories inform Neika’s written and visual practice