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Megan Cope's Ngaliya barwon Gami

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are advised that the following contains the names of people who are deceased.

Megan Cope, Quandamooka woman, draws on her experience as an artist and cartographer in Ngalia barwon Gami (our great uncle), to explore the service of her great-great uncle Richard Martin in the First World War and bring greater visibility to Indigenous service people in the Australian war time narratives.

To mark the centenary of the First World War, the Australian War Memorial commissioned the Anzac Centenary Print Portfolio, which comprises contemporary artistic responses to the First World War by five Australian and five New Zealand artists. As part of this Megan Cope undertook a residence and researched her own family history of military service. She found that,

As an Indigenous Australian he was legally prevented from enlisting, so he claimed a New Zealand heritage and five years’ prior service in the Australian Light Horse. In fact, he was born on Stradbroke Island, and had no known previous service. On 9 May 1915 Martin joined the 15th Battalion on Gallipoli before being transferred to the 47th Battalion and sent to fight on the Western Front.1

For the finished work Cope drew a portrait of Matin in his uniform with lithographic crayon on lithographic stone that was then printed over a copy of an archival map from the Australian War Memorial’s collection that depicted the battle of Dernancourt where Martin was killed. It was important for Cope to visualise and imprint Martin in that space, tracing both the history of his life and highlighting that “not many people think about Aboriginal people being in Europe 100 years ago.”2

Cope, who often uses maps in her work draws links between how Australian personnel assigned ‘familiar’ names to foreign places and the colonial naming of places on Indigenous Lands. On the map in the work you can see some of the trenches named ‘Emu’, ‘Beer’, ‘Echuca’ and ‘Dingo’.

Cope describes the overall process as, “probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done… I saw it as a way to continue that respect and honour."3

Megan Cope
Megan Cope (born 1982), Quandamooka woman, was born in North Stradbroke Island in Queensland, and is a well-known Australian artist working across disciplines, including cartography and public installation, to interrogate colonial history and the Australian narrative. Cope completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts at Deakin University in 2006. Cope began exhibiting her work in 2014 and is included in major surveys at the National Gallery of Australia and the Melbourne Museum, Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander at the Art Gallery of South Australia, and the Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art in 2020. She has completed numerous public art commissions and been an artist in residence for places like the Australian Print Workshop in 2018 and the Canberra Glassworks in 2020. Between 2017 and 2019 Cope was the official war artist for the Australian War Memorial. She is a member of the Aboriginal art collective proppaNOW.

1. The Australian War Memorial, ‘Ngaliya barwon Gami (our great-uncle) from the 'Anzac Centenary Print Portfolio’. Accessed online via: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C2123451 2. As above. 3. Hunter, C, 2019, ‘It’s probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done’, Australian War Memorial. Accessed online via: https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/blog/megan-cope-official-war-artist
2. As above.
3. Hunter, C, 2019, ‘It’s probably the most challenging thing I’ve ever done’, Australian War Memorial. Accessed online via: https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/blog/megan-cope-official-war-artist

Megan Cope (born 1982, artist), 
Quandamooka people,

John Loane (born 1950, printer),

Ngaliya barwon Gami (our great uncle), 

Official Gifts Collection,
Parliament House Art Collection.

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