My supervisor Nigel Lendon alerted me to the existence of a burial platform replica across from my studio by the lake in front of Old Canberra House. It was a collaborative project to which Nigel contributed his skill in construction. It is attributed to Djon Mundine/Fiona Foley who initiated the concept and use kangaroo bones as a metaphor for human remains. It is titled Ngaraka: Shrine for the Lost Koori 2001 and mirrors my own yearnings for this type of burial practice in which the body and its decomposition play a major part in the mourning process. It could be said that the natural disintegration of the body following death defines the active and public period of mourning. A sense of closure is then physically experienced with the second burial when the bones are collected, in the north of Australia painted with red ochre, and ceremonially placed in a log coffin or rock crevice.

In my current painting process I have partly replicated this treatment of the dead by collecting recently deceased animals and placing them on a makeshift burial platform that uses spring based bed frames. This process was developed in order to collect bodily pigments on canvas creating a shroud. I am considering collecting the bones from the next set of shrouds, which I produce over the summer period.

2 thoughts on “Ngaraka

  1. I am particularly interested in the significance of the name Ngaraka and how you assigned the name Ngaraka to this beautiful and insightful sculpted memorial to the ancestors. I am interested not only because Ngaraka is the name given to me by my Maori mum 65 years ago, but it is also my great grand mothers name. Secondly, I have lived in Australia for 34 years and find myself constantly drawn into Aboriginal peoples and cultures – even without making a consious decision to do so. Yoursa kindly, Ngaraka


  2. it is a wonderful work by Djon Mundine and Fiona Foley who gave the memorial the name Ngaraka meaning bones, being inside the body they symbolize inside knowledge, the most secret and sacred expressions of ancestral power. (after Morphy ‘Ancestral Connections: Art and an Aboriginal System of Knowledge’1992)


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