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Jenna Lee

Linguistic Prosperity

6 - 27 March 2021

For all of western history if it was printed and published in a book, it was seen as the good reliable truth. Almost 100 years ago the words ‘linguistic poverty’ where printed and distributed in the Australian Aboriginal Native Words and Their Meanings national handbook, to describe our languages. Statements such as this where published in various ‘Aboriginal Language’ dictionaries and presented as fact with the purpose of providing colonists a list of ‘pleasant-sounding… musical native aboriginal’ words in which to name their homes, boats and children. These so called dictionaries published lists of words presented with no context or connection to First Nations People.


With over 250 languages including 800 dialectal variants, these books homogenise
our people reinforcing harmful misrepresentations which persist today.


These works began to exist to prove this statement wrong - that our languages have always been abundantly rich and that our prosperity is multifaceted: in the sheer number of unique languages spoken, the rich depth of connection our words provide us, as well as the collective effort of our people to reinvigorate languages which, through targeted and aggressive colonial linguicide attempts, where almost completely extinguished.


Linguistic Prosperity Vol.2 is an iteration of an ongoing body of work which uses one such dictionary. Presented in this show are new and experimental works exclusively using pages of Aboriginal Words and Place Names, a book which versions are still published today. 


“..those who are in search for names of houses, children, boats and other purposes, will find a rich treasury of words native to their own land…” 


While simultaneously being dispossessed from land and waters and having children stolen, our words were served up with no connection to people or place for leisurely consumption of colonists. Linguistic Prosperity Vol.2 takes this fraudulent book and transforms it using settler tableware and focusing on methods of cyclical elemental deconstruction and reconstruction (fire), creation and appropriation.


This body of work views language as a living entity which, under differing circumstances, can wither into non-existent or prosper into abundance.