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Crowther Statue ‘Reinterpreted’

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Transcript of media conference with Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds, Hobart Councillor Zelinda Sherlock, artist Allan Mansell, Franklin Square, Hobart, 27 April 2021. Anna Reynolds I’m here with Councillor Zelinda Sherlock. And Allan Mansell, Allan is the artist that we’re launching his work today. Allan was one of the artists that responded to our call for […]

Transcript of media conference with Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds, Hobart Councillor Zelinda Sherlock, artist Allan Mansell, Franklin Square, Hobart, 27 April 2021.

Allan Mansell.

Anna Reynolds

I’m here with Councillor Zelinda Sherlock. And Allan Mansell, Allan is the artist that we’re launching his work today. Allan was one of the artists that responded to our call for proposals to reinterpret the Crowther statue. And this reinterpretation project is part of a commitment that the city has made to the Aboriginal community. And the commitment that we made is that we want to help better tell our history, to tell the truth of our history in Hobart. And this project is a really important part of that truth telling process, because Hobart has a history that many people know about. And there’s also a hidden history. And the city of Hobart made a commitment to the Aboriginal community last year that we would help to tell the truth of our history. This project is a really important part of that conversation. This is a really important conversation that we need to have this site creates a lot of distress for the local Aboriginal community. And as part of our Aboriginal commitment and action plan, we made a commitment to help the Aboriginal community tell the truth of our history. So sometimes conversations are difficult, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important conversations to have. Telling this story and telling more about the truth about history is a really important discussion that Hobart has to have.

Journalist – Alex Johnston

(inaudible)

Anna Reynolds

Absolutely, our council is a very progressive council, it does work very closely with the Aboriginal community. And it’s a council that’s committed to telling the truth of our history. A city like Hobart with so much history, history is really part of our soul. But there’s so many different sides to history. And it’s important that we do tell all sides of history and the truth of our history, and this project is central to that.

Journalist – Michelle

Can you tell us a bit about the history? Tell me about William Crowther and what he did?

Anna Reynolds

Yes. Would you prefer I leave that to the artist who’s has done quite a bit of that as part of his piece. Okay. Sorry, Alex.

Journalist – Alex Johnston

In a way it’s more impactful this art here, than if you just quietly put the statue away or put it in a museum somewhere?

Anna Reynolds

Yeah, absolutely. The Council decided decided that it wanted to have a year-long conversation about this statue, and about this chapter of of Hobart’s history. And these four artworks, these are temporary artworks, they’re not changing the statue permanently. These are temporary artworks, they will help us to have that community conversation, where we’re gathering people’s feedback. We’re gathering people’s ideas, we’re gathering people’s responses. And we’ll do that over the next year, both in response to Allan’s piece of art, but in response to the next three. There’ll be one every three months, and that by the end of that process, we’ll have really gathered a lot of feedback from the community about what they think about the future of this statue.

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Journalist – Alex Johnston

Is your gut feeling that at the end of that process the statue will be removed?

Anna Reynolds

It’s really hard to say I mean, I’m really keen for the community to have that conversation and not preempt it in any way.

Journalist – Alex Johnston

Allan, tell me about the process. When you were commissioned to do this, did you have an idea immediately as to what you were going to do?

Allan Mansell

Knowing the history about this man who butchered King Billy, I had a fair idea straight away what was going to happen to this statue.

Journalist – Alex Johnston

Does it make your proud that you’re backed here by the Lord Mayor of the City Council, for something as provocative and meaningful as this? (inaudible)

Allan Mansell

I’m just so proud that the Aboriginal community is being recognised for the wrong. I’m not trying to write his rewrite history. I’m trying to rectify history in the way that this statue has taken its form. It might be provocative, but that’s what it’s all about: to wake up people to make sure that that this is recognised as a wrongdoing to our people.

Tasmanian Times

Are you expecting that there might be any negative feedback? And if so how will you –

Allan Mansell

I don’t care, I don’t care because the negative feedback because that’s not what I’m about. I’m about my people getting recognition for what wrong has being done to them and is still being done to them. People need to wake up that we are the first people in this country. And we need to be recognised as that. And this is just one part of the big picture to recognise our people.

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Journalist – Alex Johnston

Can you tell about the meaning behind the blood red hands, what looks like a machete to me, and then the bone?

Allan Mansell

The red head was brought about because William Lanne’s head was dismembered after his death, and then they took his hands, and then his cronies has come in and butchered him out and took all his bones. And that’s what the red hands and head is about. And the sword is all about what deed was done with that sword. And the bone is about how the Tasmanian tiger was run out of this country by Europeans once again. And all we’re saying is, will the thylacine come back and pick its bone up and plus this statue.

Journalist – Alex Johnston

How does it make you feel that until now that statue has stood there without context? Basically, lauding him as a hero.

Allan Mansell

Well, that’s a cover up, isn’t it? We all know about cover ups from Aboriginal people, wrongdoings, and we’re trying to right it. It’s not a very nice statue. Just the truth didn’t come out about this man, that’s all.

Journalist – Alex Johnston

This project obviously has a plan and the other three artists, but do you think at the end of that, it should go?

Allan Mansell

I don’t know about go. I reckon, my take on it, if we take his head off and put a an Aboriginal head on top of the statue, I think that’ll be precise.

Journalist – Alex Johnston

And you mentioned that, you know, you’ve tried to flip it so that it’s now a tribute to William Lanne. Tell me about him.

Allan Mansell

King Billy, yeah. Well, he was just an Aboriginal activist in his own right. It was just sad that that happened to his body. He was a brave warrior. He did his stuff through the Europeans. I mean, he tried his best and he was treated like like animals. Like they said, flora and fauna, but we’re not.

Journalist – Alex Johnston

You haven’t minced words on the plaque. Some people might come and read that and maybe feel a bit uncomfortable.

Allan Mansell

That’s the whole thing. Yeah. Feel uncomfortable about what’s happened in the past and now we’ve got to fix it. And the Hobart City Council’s come to the party about that, recognised that things have got to be put out there, and a little bit of shock treatment so people to take notice of what’s happening. All this is done..I’m an artist. As an Aboriginal person, I’m an activist within my art. Yeah, so this is another way to be an activist for my people.

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Journalist – Michelle

For you living in Hobart, having to drive past the statute, or walk past, how does it make you feel that that piece has been standing there for all these years, given its history.

Allan Mansell

Well I don’t live in Hobart. I live on Bruny Island and it’s a bit of a hassle to come up to Hobart to see the statue standing here. When I come past I like drive past as fast as I can, because it’s not something that you want to see every day, not through its history.

Journalist – Michelle

Do you want other councils around Tasmania to take up this program and have discussions about other statues and so on?

Allan Mansell

Yeah, I’d like see a lot of statues removed from public areas, and maybe recognise the Aboriginal people of Tasmania. And we are Tasmanian Aboriginals,, we’re not mainland Aboriginals. We are an identity by ourselves. And yeah, other things. We don’t have land rights. We don’t have water rights. And it’s still happening. It’s still being buried. So it needs to be brought out and recognised for what it is.


Additional background provided by HCC:

Dutch-born William Crowther was a 19th century naturalist and surgeon and briefly Premier of Tasmania but is also known for mutilating the remains of Tasmanian Aboriginal man William Lanne in the 1860s.

Lanne was well regarded as an advocate for his community. The partner of ‘Queen’ Truganini, he became known as King Billy and the native plant the ‘King Billy Pine’ is named after him. He died in 1869, aged 34.

The Crowther Reinterpreted project will deliver four temporary artworks, from solo arts practitioners or small teams of artists, with priority given to Tasmanian Aboriginal artists.

The further three successful artworks will be produced by Tasmanian filmmaker Roger Scholes working with Professor Greg Lehman; Hobart-based artist and writer Julie Gough, and Hobart journalist and photographer Jillian Mundy.

Each of the four artworks will be in place for up to two months.

The artworks themselves, along with the community feedback and discussion they provoke, will help to inform a permanent response to the statue.

To contribute to the discussion or provide feedback on the artwork, visit yoursay.hobartcity.com.au.

Source: Tasmanian Times https://www.tasmaniantimes.com/2021/04/crowther-statue-reinterpreted/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crowther-statue-reinterpreted

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