Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art took part in the Biennale, with a vibrant exciting exhibition. This piece by aboriginal artist Esme Timbery and her daughter really caught my eye! At first I could not ‘see’ what it was, but close inspection revealed the exquisite details of tiny shells fixed to children’s slippers.
Apparently this skill was passed down to Esme from her grandmother who made the decorative shells into artifacts for tourists who were attracted to La Perouse as long ago as the 1880’s.
In the first half of last century a cruel government policy meant that many aboriginal children were taken away from their families and sent to institutions or taken into service as cheap labour in wealthy homes. I have cousins whose grandmother suffered this fate, growing up unprotected and vulnerable far from home.
All these little slippers, each so lovingly decorated, might represent to Esme the little children who were taken, often never to be seen again. Here are the notes from the wall beside the exhibit.
Esme’s art is also represented in the National Museum of Australia with a small collection of Shellworked Harbour Bridges, have a look to see her photo and the tiny bridges.