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Ngaraka : Shrine for Unknown KooriPrint Page Print this page

The art work titled " Ngaraka : Shrine for Unknown Koori" commemorates the thousands of Aborigines whose bodies were removed from their graves and exported to satisfy scientific curiosity about `primitive races`.

Shrine for the Unknown Koori (2001), with Fiona Foley, was created as part of ‘Shrines for the New Millennium’, a Cultural Program initiated by the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG ). In Ngaraka, which since 2001 has been part of the Australian National University Sculpture Walk in Canberra, the artists refer to the funereal tradition of wrapping deceased people in paperbark and elevating the shrouded body on a raised platform. Mundine and Foley’s public sculpture uses kangaroo bones to represent human bones, and is a memorial to the Indigenous people whose bones were removed following European colonisation.

The centrepiece of Ngaraka (meaning "backbone" in the Djambarrpuyngu language of Arnhem Land) is a replica of a traditional Aboriginal burial platform on which lies a kangaroo carcass wrapped in paperbark. Metaphorically kangaroos are often thought of in Indigenous religious terms as human beings.On the ground below the platform the artists have piled a thick layer of kangaroo bones—two and a half tonnes of them—in the shape of midden sites. 

Grave-robbing was actively supported by the scientific and medical community from the late 1800s until the 1920s. Today this practice and its underlying theory, social Darwinism, are an embarrassment to the scientific community. All Australian public museums have repatriation programs to return remains to their communities of origin. 

Location

Address:Lennox Crossing, International Sculpture Park, Australian National University, Acton, 2602
State:ACT
Area:AUS
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -35.290044
Long: 149.116799
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Details

Monument Type:Art
Monument Theme:Culture
Sub-Theme:Indigenous
Designer:Djon Mundine, Fiona Foley, Joe Huist

Dedication

Approx. Monument Dedication Date:2000
Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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