'Remembering Aesi': Women's History, Dialogical Memorials and Sydney's Statuary

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Kiera Lindsey


In this article I draw upon a definition of ‘dialogical memorial’ offered by Brad West to offer an experimental artist's brief that outlines the various ways that a contemporary monument to the colonial artist, Adelaide Eliza Scott Ironside (1831-1867), could ‘talk back’ to the nineteenth-century statues of her contemporaries, and ‘converse’ with more recent acts of history making. In contrast to the familiar figure of the individual hero, which we associate with the statuary of her age, I suggest a group monument that acknowledges the intimate intergenerational female network which shaped Aesi's life and also ‘re-presents’ – a term coined by the historian Greg Dening – several native born and convict women from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras who influenced her life. Instead of elevating Aesi upon a plinth, I recommend grounding this group monument on Gadigal country and planting around it many of the Australian Wildflowers she painted in ways that draw attention to the millennia-old Indigenous uses of the same plants. And finally, by situating Aesi’s monument in the Outer Domain (behind the New South Wales Art Gallery in Sydney’s Botanic Gardens and to the east of the Yurong Pennisula, near Woolloomooloo Bay), in an area where she once boldly assumed centre stage before a large male audience in a flamboyant moment of her own theatrical history-making, I argue that this memorial will have the capacity to speak for itself in ways that challenge the underepresentation of colonial women in Sydney's statuary, and, as West suggests, do much to ‘alter the stage on which Sydney's colonial history 'is narrated and performed’.

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Articles Statue Wars (PEER REVIEWED)