Auntie Joy Murphy Wandin: The Felton Bequest Artists
Wurundjeri elder Joy Murphy Wandin discusses the Felton Commission, three installations by contemporary artists Jonathan Jones, Vernon Ah Kee and Brook Andrew that honour Barak’s art and life.
Joy Murphy-Wandin: My relationship to Barak or Beruk, which is his traditional name, is through my Grandfather – Grandfather Robert Wandin. It was his sister, Annie Barat, who gave birth to Barak. Barak, very sadly, leaves no surviving children. He was married three times but sadly no one survives him.
However removed I am from him I would like to think that this ongoing journey has been entrusted to me because I have been given the opportunity to tell his story so many times, particularly at the National Gallery of Victoria where his work is being held. The National Gallery of Victoria has an amazing installation, it was commissioned by the Felton Bequest. Three contemporary artists were chosen to depict Barak’s life in different ways.
Jonathan Jones was tireless in his endeavours to learn so much about Barak and his life and particularly wanting to honour him. Jonathan beautifully captured the lifestyle of Barak - the ups, the downs, many woes, not a great deal of happiness. He also captured the death of Barak and paying homage not only to Barak but to his father. In August every year a yellow light projects and that is the Muyan or the wattle when Barak and his father both passed.
The next installation is from Vernon Ah Kee and as I’ve looked at that portrait many times I see Barak’s last son, David. I see him as a child through this portrait and then he becomes Barak and I clearly see the sadness. I clearly see those heavy times and then Barak said ‘I am just too tired’.
The third installation is by Brook Andrew. Brook’s work, to me, represents the seesawing of black and white cultures. The journey that was very jagged, that is still jagged. A lot of our history has been boxed in a way and Brook shows this quite clearly. When we look to our young people I hope that each and every one of our community, particularly in Wurundjeri community, is able to see this work and draw their own perspective from it but realise that this is a magnificent installation work. That is seen through the eyes of three young contemporary Aboriginal artists.