Of old and new : messages conveyed by Australian universities
chapterposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Bronwyn FredericksBronwyn Fredericks
On arriving at the University of Queensland, I walked from where the taxi dropped me off towards the Great Court. As I walked I could see the carvings in the sandstone on the façade of the building in front of me. The carvings depict images of land, flora, fauna, settlers, and us. In the corner of my right sight of vision, I could see Mayne Hall. My mind flicked back in what was an instant to a time 30 plus years ago. I remember putting on some of my best clothes when my family would travel from the suburb of Inala to the Alumni book fair held in the Hall. We needed to act ‘discrete’ and like we were ‘meant to be there’. Members of my family would work hard to save money to buy the books that had far more substance than the books at our local community or school library. This was my first interaction with the University of Queensland. On the first day of Courting Blakness, I walked towards and then into the Great Court. I began to explore and engage with the artworks and allow them to engage with me. I was conscious of being in the University of Queensland as I had been on all my past visits. I was conscious of the public and the private aspects of the artworks along with the public observance and surveillance of the viewers of the artworks. The contradictions and struggles that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience are everywhere when moving in spaces and places, including universities. They contain prevailing social, political and economic values in the same way that other places do. The symbols of place and space within universities are never neutral, and they can work to either marginalise and oppress Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, or demonstrate that they are included and engaged. The artworks in the Great Court were involved in this matrix of mixed messages and the weaves of time contained the borders of the Court and within the minds of those present.