On 27 September 1956 the British exploded an atomic bomb in the southern part of the Great Victoria Desert of South Australia. The place would become known as Maralinga. It was the first of seven British atomic tests in Australia in 1956 and 1957, which were followed by over 600 so called ‘minor tests’ with highly toxic substances such as plutonium and beryllium until 1963. The Maralinga tests were indeed not the first the British Government conducted on Australian territory. Three atomic devices were detonated in the Montebello archipelago off the coast of Western Australia further two in Emu, about 400 km north of Maralinga. Yet, it was the term Maralinga, an Aboriginal word for thunder, the tests have been associated with and which gave this dark part of Australian history its iconic name.
Atomic testing in Australia resulted in the forced removal of its original inhabitants, the Anangu / Pitjantjatjarra, from their traditional lands, the desecration and destruction of country and the exposure of its desert people, military and civil personnel to radiation while causing radioactive fall-out across the Australian continent.
Black Mist Burnt Country is a national touring exhibition project which commemorates the 60th anniversary of the British atomic test series at Maralinga. It revisits the events and its location through the artworks by Indigenous and non-Indigenous contemporary artists across the mediums of painting, print-making, sculpture, installation, photography and new media.The works in the exhibition collectively span a period of seven decades, from the first atomic test in Hiroshima and the post-WW II era, through the times of anti-nuclear protest in the 1980s to the present day. The exhibition is planned to commenced in September 2016 and toured nationally to public galleries and museums across five states until 2019.
The work Prohibited Area is a recreation of one of the many signs put up around the Maralinga area to bar access to the site. It is weathered by the time, sun and rust, and appears as if recently ripped from the locale. It is a contemporary landscape painting that describes a geography you can no longer visit.
Black Mist Burnt Country was curated by JD Mittmann. For more information about the exhibition please go to: