REMEMBERING AUSTRALIA’S FORGOTTEN MOTHERS
WOMEN’S LIBERATION FROM INTERNALISED OPPRESSION AND CULTURAL & PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAUMA THROUGH CATHARSIS IN PHYSICAL ACTS OF PERFORMATIVE WRITING AND ART, IN DIALOGUE, AND IN RITES OF ECSTATIC INTERPRETIVE DANCE.
I am. An Australian-based feminist textual artist and theorist. I work in the tradition of feminism that articulates new modalities of writing and art from life experiences of the female subject and self. My focus is in creative writing and critical cultural theory. Pushing the project of post-structuralist reflexive writing as conceptual art across textual modes and boundaries. Into disjointed narratives of exile, fugue and dissociation.
I seek to make conscious the unconscious processes that call out for Catharsis. For Healing from personal and cultural trauma. Through performative acts of fugal writing that bear witness and reclaim dispersed and lost identity. My project and method is to use rituals of writing as action, and occasions of exchange through interviews and conversations with artists, to bring into consciousness, to evacuate and exorcise the internalised content of cultural and personal oppression and trauma.
To rise beyond fear of the censor and surveillance into words and art that speak OUR name and make us STRONG again. Through acts of writing I remember how to feel again. I will remember who I am again. I learn how to think and take part in the world again.
My project is to break through the wall of SILENCE that removed my Mother’s mother’s entire existence from the family record, so that, not only did I, and my siblings, never know WHO she was, and had been; we never even knew, and were not supposed to know, that she had ever existed at all.
My project is to honor the Mothers who were erased from the family record as if they did not matter. At the same time, it was in the twentieth century, the third century of the ‘nation’s’ cultural history; the Fathers, the men folk, the returned soldiers, from the two ‘Great Wars’ were commemorated in endless ceremonies of Remembrance that almost 100 years later still continue.
I have nothing against men being remembered, and valued and commemorated and am very proud of my grandfathers who fought bravely and suffered in the World War.
But why was it that at the same time in Australian cultural history, that men were Remembered and commemorated excessively, women, specifically MOTHERS, were massively disregarded, excluded, denied, forgotten, and lost in the decades of the ‘stolen generations’, that lasted over six decades, when one hundred thousand children of Aboriginal mothers, were taken and placed in orphanages, missions, or with adopted parents, under a policy of attempted 'assimilation'. There is a huge gendered cultural imbalance in these practices that has not been widely acknowledged. A cultural amnesia has prevailed. My project is to resurrect the memory of the forgotten mothers. Make a plinth and cover it with their names. Write the story of my family, to start with. The long journey of finding my grandmother.
My mother’s mother died shortly after she was born. She was adopted. By an upper class couple. Grandfather was an officer and a gentleman. Grandmother was a lady and very concerned with appearances. They lived in a big house overlooking a gully on Sydney’s Upper North Shore. To spare their feelings (so the story goes now) a cover up ensued, the result being that the very existence of my grandmother, was denied and hidden. This would have been forever (had those involved successfully had their way).
It was only by chance and accidence, through little slips and whispers, from the other side, that my forbidden grandmother’s presence re-entered consciousness. I was the conduit.
To be continued.
Copyright © Ruth Skilbeck, 2011
From: Australian women contemporary artists project.