Michael Cook: The Mission
Opens 27-07-2018, closes 03-03-2019
The Mission traces the journey of an Aboriginal woman from her homeland to a Christian mission, where she arrives in handcuffs. Life on the mission introduces her to Western clothing, food rations, tobacco, and even a husband. Yet, her baby is stolen following a Christian wedding. Symbolically, in the final image she returns to her Country.
The artist Michael Cook writes:
“The existence of missions and reserves enabled the implementation of policies by which children of mixed Aboriginal and European heritage were forcibly removed from Aboriginal societies and placed in so-called ‘half-caste’ institutions where they were trained for service and assimilation into the vision of a white Australia. Such policies continued well into the 20th century, and the people directly affected by them are known as the Stolen Generations.”
Cook is a Bidjara man from Queensland who was given up for adoption by his biological mother shortly after his birth in 1968. While his adopted mother encouraged a strong understanding of Aboriginal culture, he “never felt that connection to [his] indigenous ancestry”.
Making art is his way of better understanding both Aboriginal culture and racial prejudice in Australia.
The Mission was created using a range of archival imagery, including family photographs and documents from his personal collection. The baby in two of the works is Michael himself.
Image details: Michael Cook (b. 1968), The Mission [Typical Aboriginal Picaninny], 2011, inkjet print. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Michael Cook, 2015.