Bonita Ely - Inside Mawson's Sleeping Bag

Exhibition: 28 June to 21 July, 2001

Bonita Ely

Inside Mawson's Sleeping Bag explores the poetics of heroism and the construction of national identity. In this work Bonita Ely has taken one of Australia's most lionised feats of survival, Sir Douglas Mawson's extraordinary journey to the Antarctic, and positioned it alongside the experiences of the Stolen Generations who endured comparable pain and hardship but were excluded from the grand narrative of white history. In the works, photographs of everyday objects accompany excerpts from the diaries and oral histories of both subjects. These components, woven together in installation work on each other as a poetic evocation of our mortality.

Inside Mawson's Sleeping Bag suggests an alternative approach to understanding Australian history. Ely starts from the veracity of our own personal experiences allowing for empathy, convergences and complexities which traditional grand narratives disavow. This exhibition continues a major concern of her multidisciplinary practice - an endeavour to critically address Aboriginal issues as a non-Indigenous Australian.