Reshaping history and rewriting narratives, Hyde Park Barracks is reopening this weekend to the public. The new and improved Sydney landmark will see the showcase of a huge Aboriginal mural paying respects to the Gadigal people and their history.

Kamilaroi and Wiradjuri artist, Jonathan Jones, created the artwork, untitled (maraong manaóuwi), which spans across 2,500 square metres within Hyde Park Barracks’ courtyard.

Commissioned by the City of Sydney and Sydney Living Museums, the mural brings together two similar symbols with juxtaposing meanings, the maraong manaóuwi, which means emu footprint in Gadigal language and the English broad arrow, a symbol of colonialism.

Jones brings together two starkly different experiences into one place.

“It is a challenging space, we are talking about one of the most colonised spaces in Australia. It is the epicentre of convictism and that early Australian narrative is very embedded into a space like that,” Jones said.

“The early Australian narrative was designed to erase Aboriginal people, Aboriginal history and Aboriginal knowledge.”

“So how then do we try and tell a complete story of our history when we know Aboriginal people just didn’t disappear in 1788?”

“How do we go back to those sites that have been specifically curated and created to ignore Aboriginal people, how do we go into them and reprint the Aboriginal story?”

Jones said the site asks a bigger question, one for Australia to answer.

“That is the real challenge, this one little site is a bigger metaphor for the rest of Australia … that erasing, isn’t unusual. How do we then, teach the next generation that there is a deeper, complex story and Aboriginal people just didn’t disappear?”

The mural brings the Indigenous narrative into a space it has been denied for many years and has the potential to help move towards a more inclusive, collective national identity.

Jonathan Jones at Hyde Park Barracks. Photo supplied.

“For the most part, Aboriginal Australians find sites like that really confronting and rightly so. They are symbols of extraordinary violence … for Aboriginal Australians we tend to steer clear of those spaces, but that is one of the issues. If we steer clear, we can’t reengage.

“Then the wider Australian population can’t reimagine them either. We get in this cycle. We need to bite into those spaces and in interesting ways.

“It is contesting, especially in NSW and the southeast in VIC, we are people who have been bearing the weight of colonisation for so long, so these histories for us, they are lived.”

“They are in our family, we have mixed heritage. We are these extraordinary products of the world’s oldest living culture, mixed with British Empire, mixed with this extraordinary immigration. We are a very unique group of people.”

“It is really upsetting for any young Aboriginal person, or non-Aboriginal person, to come in and see these very polarised views of history.

“Having those conflicting stories and conflicting narratives, isn’t a problem. It is not an issue, and I think today when we have so much division, politically and in society, and when we don’t accept different ideas or experiences, that is a real problem.

“That is where Australia and the world have been falling over, we haven’t been able to accept there are multiple worldviews existing in the one place and not one is better than the other. It is a really healthy thing to have those world views together.”

The reopening will also feature a public program of around 50 free talks, performances, workshops and live music as part of the City of Sydney’s year-round public program Art & About.

It will host powerful names such as Marcia Langton AM, Wesley Enoch, Lorena Allam, Lorraine Connelly-Northey, Eric Avery and more.

Wiradjuri dancers Lowanna and Lucy Murray perform on untitled (maraong manaóuwi) 2019, Hyde Park Barracks. Photo by Pedro Greig.

“A key part of the program, not only is the amazing talks and workshops but every day there will be two young Indigenous guides who will be there engaging people in conversations,” Jones said.

“They are there to have a yarn, help people navigate the project. More and more I guess, I’m not sure why, but the only way we are able to change people is when Aboriginal people have a direct relationship with someone.

“The more of that direct contact and direct relationships, those one-on-one moments with Aboriginal people we can have, that’s where I see change.

“It’s a big job as we are only 3 percent of the population, but we are also the friendliest part of the population and we’re always up for a yarn.”

The reopening begins today and will continue into March. untitled (maraong manaóuwi) art installation will be open for viewing until March 15 2020 at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney, NSW.

By Rachael Knowles