Islands of Innocence was a multimedia installation encompassing projection and audio in the old asylum ward replica at the North Stradbroke Island Museum on Minjerribah, August 12, 2018. The projections are not limited to a single small screen; instead they overlay the human-centric and pinned histories of the island on the white walls of the old asylum building’s interior. North and south wall projections contrast very different depictions and also decimations of ‘innocence’.
The land and seascapes of the Australian islands of Cassim, Lord Howe and Minjerribah (Stradbroke), along with Morovo Lagoon in the Solomons, were charted over a period of three months in late 2018 by curator and researcher, Jo Fay Duncan. The exhibit media reference a rich research of ecology undertaken over 24 months, documented in this Small Islands Blog.
Threats to island habitats are largely born of human-centric practices.
Islands of Innocence follows the 2017 Two Island Tribute installation which explored a development plan to build 3500 units on reclaimed land on Nandeebie’s (Cleveland’s) foreshore. Such a development would decimate the intertwined island ecologies of Cassim and Sandy Islands, which contain underwater geologies, ecological diversity and integrity qualifying them for inclusion in the 1974 Ramsar zoning of 113 314 hectares of Moreton Bay. Allowing foreshore development of Toondah Harbour and Cassim Island on reclaimed land of the bay in an internationally recognised Ramsar site directly contravenes the objective of the Ramsar Convention: ie. the protection of these wetlands.
In the face of the ever-present threat of development, the artwork in Islands of Innocence explores global threats to islands and related habitats, including mining, over-population and development. Notions of innocence, ancestry and aesthetics explored in this multi-layered media installation are qualities which here stand in the face of these threats. The installation poses a poetic and aesthetic disruptor to the bureaucratic monologue about an “economic transition strategy” away from mining on Minjerribah, and recent controversial $444 million grants to save the Great Barrier Reef.
Since 1949 sand mining has been active on Minjerribah. Its impact on people and country is spoken about in Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s poem Time is Running Out. The poem was published in the 1970 publication My people: a Kath Walker collection. This poem, along with audio of Uncle Bob Anderson speaking about mining’s end, is included in this installation.
In 2011 the state government legislated to action Native Title in the region, extend national parks and put an end to mining on Minjerribah. After a change of government and a legal challenge, the High Court of Australia ruled in 2017 to overturn legislation to prolong sand mining, as the extension of mining leases on the island brought into question the rights of Native Title holders across the country. As a result, mining on the island is set to end in 2019.
Mapping the bay has been a prolific undertaking by many and various individuals and entities in the last 70 years. The north wall projection references mapping, mining and development in the bay. Depicted in the maps are: imagined underwater geologies from the Last Glacial period; charting of Moreton Bay by seafarers; bird habitats; and government political zoning. Also included is a map of a Native Title claim over Minjerribah, which has created its own complex divisions in the community, and a Jandal language map of Minjerribah. Development is depicted in the 3D rendering of the intended Toondah Harbour development.
Mining Downunder Sibelco QLD was a film generated by Visage Productions in 2012 at the time of the controversial overturning of the mine closure. “Mining has stolen the footprints of my ancestors,” is a theme often articulated in audio recordings with Uncle Bob over the past 24 months. In this installation he speaks of the significance of song and dance, of walking country to Aboriginal people, and of walking once again on the lands denied them due to mining leases.
On the south wall are depicted the pristine waters of Morovo Lagoon in the Solomon Islands; its corals are untouched by ocean bleaching and its marine inhabitants are diverse and prolific, as seen in footage by travel companion Dave Hannan of Ocean Ark Alliance, who is a deep water cinematographer and sometimes island resident. Overlaying this is original music composed by 16 year-old Leon D.N. – its mood one of wonder and journeying.
Lord Howe Island is one of a few breeding sites for the sooty tern on the east coast of Australia. Their isolation and sheer volume leave their time immemorial routine unperturbed by human contact. Children visiting this site in breeding season are pictured here as silhoetted figures in yellow and orange, harnessing something of the innocence and reverence essential if we are to preserve earth’s natural habitats.
The media installation Islands of Innocence explores the idea of innocence and innocence lost, be that through mining, development or humans’ prolific presence in the terrain.