Ngaliya barwon Gami (our great-uncle) from the 'Anzac Centenary Print Portfolio'

Accession Number ART96846.003
Collection type Art
Measurement Sheet: 76 x 56 cm
Object type Print
Physical description Lithograph, printed in yellow, red, blue, and black ink, from four stones; screenprint, printed in grey ink, from one screen on paper
Maker Cope, Megan
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra
Date made 2014-15
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC

Engaging with family stories of war for the first time, Megan Cope began uncovering the histories of seven Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men from Queensland’s Stradbroke Island who served in the First World War. From this starting point she searched through the archives of the Australian War Memorial and the National Archives of Australia, teasing out military narratives and mapping movements across different theatres of war. She was interested in portraits of the men that her grandmother and great-aunt’s had often spoken about and locating them in the European landscape using military maps. This was an important process for Cope, who noted that “not many people think about Aboriginal people being in Europe 100 years ago”.

Cope’s print focuses on the service of her great-great uncle Private Richard Martin, who enlisted in December 1914. As an Indigenous Australian he was legally prevented from enlisting, so he claimed a New Zealand heritage and five years’ prior service in the Australian Light Horse. In fact, he was born on Stradbroke Island, and had no known previous service. On 9 May 1915 Martin joined the 15th Battalion on Gallipoli before being transferred to the 47th Battalion and sent to fight on the Western Front. The battalion was involved in costly battles at Bullecourt, Messines, and Passchendaele, and during this time Martin was twice wounded. In late March 1918 the German army launched a major offensive in an attempt to break through the allied lines, and on the 28th attacked near the French village of Dernancourt. The 47th Battalion defended its position along the railway embankment, and the German operation ultimately failed. There were, however, many casualties among the allied forces, and among the dead was Richard Martin.

Using a lithographic crayon, Cope sketched a photographic portrait of Martin in uniform onto a large lithographic stone. The portrait was printed over the delicately traced lines of a map relating to the battle of Dernancourt from the Memorial’s collection. Cope often works with military maps and was interested in the way armies assigned familiar names to foreign places, just as colonisers did for Aboriginal lands. Close inspection reveals the trench names “Echuca”, “Dingo”, “Emu”, and “Beer”.

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