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Generated image of the artwork: Tromemanner - forgive us our trespass I-IV

Tromemanner - forgive us our trespass I-IV 1988-89

Over Bea Maddock’s long and successful career, she worked in both painting and printmaking. Her mature works focus on the landscape and history of her home state, Tasmania, where she returned to live in the mid 1980s. Tromemanner brings together several signifying systems that refer to Tasmania’s troubled history and draws on scholarly evidence of the persistence of Aboriginal cultures in Tasmania. The landscape was drawn from the Saltpan Plains at Tunbridge in the northern part of the island, not far from where Maddock was living. For the handwriting she consulted the word list of Tasmanian Aboriginal languages published by scholar NJB Plomley in 1976. The title draws on the Aboriginal Oyster Bay clan language – the word 'tromemanner' translates as ‘my own country’ – and the Lord’s Prayer. Finally, 48 artefacts across the base refer to the approximate number of tribal subgroups in Tasmania. While Maddock makes fine descriptive landscape drawings in the European manner, her insistence on the Aboriginal names and peoples directly refutes the notion of terra nullius. The work presents a unique memorial to the first Tasmanians, a reminder of the continuing Indigenous presence on the island.

Story and artwork featured in Sugar Spin: You, Me, Art and Everything.

Tromemanner – forgive us our trespass I–IV explores an Indigenous connection to the land, evoking the current of time and the erasure of the human subject. The panoramic landscape is based on the Saltpan Plains in northern Tasmania, near Maddock’s studio. The word ‘Tromemanner’ translates as ‘my own country’ in the language of the Oyster Bay clan in Tasmania, and the words of the script are also Tasmanian Aboriginal words. Because much Aboriginal culture was traditionally passed down through the spoken, rather than the written, word, the presence of the words across the landscape acts as a kind of memorial. By becoming script, the words are no longer ‘alive’, but ‘dead’, and can speak only of loss. This is emphasised by the 48 wrapped burial emblems, which are divided into compartments and archived beneath the painting, and by the landscape which exists as a bare outline. (The number 48 represents the approximate number of Tasmanian sub-tribal groups).

The soft, melted wax and pigment surface of the painting is scratched with lines, which resembles rain, or the cuts made on the bodies of the deceased by the bereaved in some Aboriginal mourning rituals. The painting speaks of the dispossession experienced by Aboriginal peoples, while simultaneously conveying the deep spiritual attachment to the land, embodied through spoken rituals, that has been disrupted by the ‘trespasses’ of colonisation.