Deanne Gilson

Community / Language Group: Wathaurung (Wada Wurrung) Veil 2014 paperclay, tulle, wire, wood ribbon 160 x 80 x 50 cm

My language group is Wathaurung (Wadawurrung) and I am proud to tell my Aboriginal Nan, Rita Fagan’s story.

I am currently developing a series of work titled The Bunyip’s Bride. The word Bunyip means Devil in Aboriginal language and the first documented story told by an Aboriginal man in the mid 1940’s, tells of a Bunyip rising out of a swamp and taking an Aboriginal woman for his own pleasure.

I see the Bunyip as a metaphor for white man and the practice of taking Indigenous women in this country, has gone on since colonisation and continues today.

My Nan was one of these women and under the veil of the Church and by being married, this abuse of her basic right to be loved and safe, went on for many years.

The white veil is made up of feathers from my totem, Waa the Crow.

There are many traditional symbols carved in to the feathers, being, diamonds, waves and the circle. The circle is the strongest and for me depicts the womb and mother figure. It also opens a portal to the past and links me with my Nan. The white feather used in the veil, is a universal symbol of peace and hope, despite the crow totem being black.

The feathers of the veil were constructed using paper clay. Part paper and part clay. They were then bisque fired and left unglazed, creating a soft, fragile look to the piece. Each feather is attached with white ribbon and laid over chicken wire and tulle. The wire then developed its own visceral form and movement through the veil, implying the figure within.

The Christian Church uses the golden eagle as a symbol to propel the word of God on Eagles wings. Similarly, the veil enables Waa the Crow to tell my Nan’s story and all the stories of women like her. It also opens up a dialogue, freeing them from the veil of secrecy of the past.