A staircase of stories: taymi ningina/never ceded
The video artwork taymi ningina/Never Ceded is an act of reclamation and of welcome, occupying the walls of the grand staircase that leads upstairs to the main permanent galleries.
Just as Tasmanian Aboriginal culture and history remain alive and vibrant despite the imposition of European occupation, so this art installation exists as a powerful layer over the top of the gallery’s Victorian-era walls.
taymi ningina/Never Ceded an immersive video work that welcomes visitors to QVMAG Royal Park. Image: Angela Casey
Created collaboratively by artists Vicki West, Dave mangenner Gough and Darryl Rogers, taymi ningina/Never Ceded is intended to put the rest of the QVMAG’s exhibits into context, a reminder of what once stood on that site, long before the 130-year-old gallery was built.
“I hope it changes your perspective of where you are,” trawlwoolway man Gough says. “It is an entryway, and from there, your journey through the museum is more about walking in truth, rather than into colonial history. If you want to tell Launceston’s history, what better place to start than its true history.”
trawlwoolway man and artist Dave mangenner Gough performs a Welcome to Country at QVMAG Royal Park. Image: Rob Burnett
The site where the gallery now stands was once a tea-tree forest where Aboriginal people lived and thrived, harvesting food, collecting materials and making cultural tools. To this day Aboriginal people continue to utilise the land to create expressions of their culture.
Through a series of video screens, taymi ningina/Never Ceded creates a vivid, moving portal into this past, with images of smoke wafting through the tea-trees, and traditional fibre twine passing through the hands of generations of Tasmanian Aboriginal people, representing the way ancestry, country and people are bound together in an ongoing continuity.
Artists Dave mangenner Gough and Darryl Rogers stand within taymi ningina/Never Ceded. Not pictured: Vicki West. Image: Jacob Collings
“The city that stands here now is only a new addition, a blip in time, while under the surface is tremendous, deep culture,” Gough says. “As you walk into the architecture of that colonial building, you reach the stairwell, painted in ochre colour, and then you see through those windows into our deep culture.”
A portrait of Queen Victoria by Robert Dowling has always hung on the wall at the top of the stairs, marking the entry to the former Federation and Colonial Galleries. This image of the gallery’s namesake remains in place, but now with moving images of smoke, forest and ochre handprints projected over the top – partly obscuring her image but not obliterating it, reflecting how Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage has persisted, despite attempts to destroy or deny it.
“To see Queen Victoria immersed in a forest and smoked is a very powerful statement,” Gough says. “I think we should all be proud to be changing history, and acknowledge that it’s okay to do that.
A portrait of Queen Victoria is immersed in a forest and smoked during the 30-minute video work.
“Museums have not had a great history over the years, of taking our culture and putting it on colonial mantelpieces, turning our heritage into a worldwide grab-fest.
“Museums and galleries have the power to shape and form young minds. This is a storytelling place and that narrative needs to be honest.”
Darryl Rogers, Vicki West and Dave mangenner Gough collaborated together on taymi ningina never ceded.
Vicki West, a trawlwoolway woman and the QVMAG Aboriginal Learning Officer, and Darryl Rogers are both artists who work extensively with installation work and video/new media, and Gough is Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Reference Group.