About Matthew O’Connor
Matthew O’Connor enters SWELL as an emerging artist. After many years in education, manufacturing, and small businesses Matthew has entered the world of Indigenous culture and history. He is currently the president of an Aboriginal Corporation focused on connecting and enriching the lives of aboriginal families of the Gold Coast and South East Queensland.
It is hoped that the skills learned and developed through the SWELL exhibition process can be passed on to community through the Yugambeh Aboriginal Museum showcase at Beenleigh which currently has creative indoor space and amenity primed for workshopping Indigenous creativity in all the arts.
Hopefully this connection will encourage other Indigenous artists, from all over South East Queensland, to participate in future sculpture and art exhibitions.
Matthew identifies with Kombumerri of the Gold Coast, Mulunjali from Beaudesert and the Ngugi tribe of Moreton Island. His apical ancestors were in these regions at first contact with Europeans in the early 1800s.
In this sculpture, Barney sees first contact through the eyes of a dingo that lived on the Gold Coast over 200 years ago. His innocence was lost as his habitat diminished along with so many other native species including the Kombumerri tribe itself. Barney was top of the food chain on the Gold Coast but could not survive the invasion of his lands.
The real Barney is a part Dingo that visits Matthew’s Indigenous mother Patricia, who is now blind and 95 years old. These two survivors share a silent affinity with the arrival of Europeans, as both have lost habitats enjoyed by their ancestors for over 60,000 years. Barney never barks yet Pat somehow knows when he arrives. She feels his presence. Some things never change when it comes to nature.
2023 SWELL ARTWORK – Jarriparilla Nugum “The beginning of the end”
Little did Jarriparilla Nugum know that the sails of Cook, Flinders and Oxley, floating across the horizon, were portents of devastating change and loss of a culture thousands of years in the making. By the 1870’s the colonisation of the Gold Coast was in full swing and Aboriginal people were being dispossessed of their land, dispersed and on occasions massacred. Dingos co-habituating with Aboriginals also disappeared from the landscape. Some aboriginals survived the invasion and their descendants live on in the region to this day.
The word Jarriparilla means Narrowneck Main Beach which was a well-known camp for the Gold Coast Kombumerri clan. Nugum means” dingo” in local Yugambeh language.
Come and see for yourself at SWELL Sculpture Festival, Pacific Parade, Currumbin 8th – 17th September