The Hanging: Jonathan Jones – barrangal dyara

September 21st 2016

barrangal dyara, Jonathan Jones, 2016



200 years ago, a palace that stood in the middle of the Royal Botanic Gardens burned to the ground, and was forgotten.

The Garden Palace was three times the size of the Queen Victoria Building, and home to Australia’s largest collection of indigenous artefacts. When it went up in flames, these culturally significant items vanished from our history. Over time, even the event itself has disappeared from our memory.

Until now.

Artist Jonathan Jones is breathing new life into this forgotten moment of Australia’s history. He has created a mammoth sculptural installation titled barrangal dyara, meaning ‘skin and bones’.

The work is made up of thousands of bleached white shields that mark out where the enormous structure once stood. Unlike the ochre shields used in traditional celebrations, Jonathan’s shields are stark white. This is a reference to both the specific destruction of cultural heritage following the blaze as well as the larger, long term effects of colonialisation of Indigenous land.

Barrangal dyara shines light on the vulnerability of the Aboriginal community and what it means to have that literal and cultural shield of protection taken away from them. It is an acknowledgement of the past and a hopeful look at the future – Jonathan says he is “putting people back at the table to talk again.”

Importantly, the work is centred around the revitalisation of Indigenous language. As you move around the site, you hear singing, children chanting, and intricate spoken memories in eight Aboriginal languages. The exhibition looks at language as a way of knowing an object without having the object, emphasising how these memories are permanently ingrained within the land, its histories and its languages.

You can download the project 32 app and wander through the site to gain further insights from cultural leaders, historians, artists and writers, or you can catch Jonathan speaking about the work and the land every day at 12:30pm.


barrangal dyara, Jonathan Jones, 2016


Ariel shot of barrangal dyara, Jonathan Jones, 2016. Photo by Peter Grieg.

  • Jonathan Jones :: Interview with Alex Pye

Listen to Alex Pye interview Indigenous artist Jonathan Jones on Mornings. 

WHAT: barrangal dyara by Jonathan Jones
WHERE: The Royal Botanic Gardens
WHEN: Until 3 October, with talks form Jonathan every day at 12.30pm
HOW MUCH: FREE – more info


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