"I escaped the city a few months ago and found paradise in Lunawanna alonnah (Bruny Island, Tasmania), where rolling hills meet the sea, broken only by the vertical strokes of blue gums. I sat making studies on a steep grassy hill overlooking a tranquil bay. As I drew, I could feel something from the past in the land. I was especially mesmerised by the enormity of the Blue Gum trees with hollowed bases that surrounded me, wondering if they might have been used for something. I later went on to discover that in 1792, a French biologist by the name of Jaques Labillardière, commented on these same large hollows at the base of standing trees. He noted that they were being used as cooking areas by the Nuenonne people, part of the south east tribe of Aboriginal Tasmanians, and that the Nuenonne occasionally used these hollows for shelter. Other early European explorers noted that the Nuenonne were a peaceful people existing in a bountiful place with plentiful resources, everything one would need.
Like many indigenous Australians, the Nuenonne lived in an earthly paradise where there was a balance between using resources and respecting nature. But sadly that ideal life came to an end when they were wiped out by bullets and disease. In 1876, with the death of Truganini, the last Nuenonne, an indigenous people had become extinct.
The act of making this life size pencil work on paper for the Chippendale New World Art Prize comes from a clear space for me - I simply want its power and beauty to be a memorial of an old way of living. I would like people to reflect on how the Nuenonne used to live in peace in nature and how this can inspire perceptions of possible new worlds. This tree hollow can stand as a symbol that sees a new world where people accept each other as they are, without causing harm to one another. To me, this would be utopia." - Mark Gerada