ATODA is proud to feature this artwork as part of its corporate identity in published content. The work was also showcased as part of the Art from the Heart of Canberra project. An exhibition of artworks created by people with lived experience of drug and alcohol use.
Title: Unspoken History, Map of Pain
About the artist
Sharon is a Stolen Generation Aboriginal artist who spent many years tracing her origins. After a long journey she reunited with her family of the Noongar tribe (/ˈnʊŋɑː/), a constellation of peoples of Indigenous Australian descent who live in the south-west corner of Western Australia, from Perth on the west coast to Esperance on the south coast.
At the age of 16 she married into the Ngunnawal tribe in Canberra where she has been living for the last 30 years. Her kids and grandchildren identify as Ngunnawal and many of them inherited her talent and are artists too.
About the artwork
While I was painting this, I was thinking about all layers of unspoken history that I will never get to know. Unspoken history of my family, my tribe and my Aboriginal peoples.
My mother belongs to the Stolen Generation, she was taken from her mother very early and sent to Gnowangerup Christian Mission for Aboriginal kids stolen from their parents located in the town of Gnowangerup in the Great Southern region of Western Australia. When she was 13 years old, she was placed in a white family to clean their house. I’ve never found out what happened to her in that family, how she was treated or how deep the trauma of having been taken away from her mother was, because she never talked to me about that. However, based on the fact that she had serious alcohol dependence which was the reason her children were taken away from her tells me – she never really recovered from it.
So, I was taken away from her as a baby and placed in a white family. She didn’t want to give me away. It was only then when I was able to, reﬂecting on my pain, start thinking what she must have gone through. Stories of abuse you cannot talk about because you feel too ashamed, too vulnerable and too unprotected… Stories that stay unspoken because their sentences and words hurt as much as the deeds done to you. Stories you cannot tell because you feel by telling them you will fall apart, break into a million pieces and no one and nothing will be able to pick them up and put them together again…
So… this painting is about everything I don’t know but I feel – the pain, the sorrow, sadness and grief but also hope and rare moments of happiness that the hope brings.