How many shields does it take to outline the original footprint of Sydney’s Garden Palace? If you’re artist Jonathan Jones (Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi), the answer is 15,000.
In preparation for Jones’ project barrangal dyara (skin and bones), up to 15,000 broad shields are being created as a memorial to the significant Aboriginal cultural objects that were lost in a devastating fire in 1882. The original footprint of the Garden Palace building was an impressive 250 metres in length by 150 metres in width, three times the size of the Queen Victoria Building.
To memorialise the building, and the objects lost inside, Jones will install the shields in the grounds of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, demarcating the outline of the now-lost palace and echoing the masses of rubble remaining after the fire. Differentiated by their tip design, the shields will represent the many Aboriginal nations of the south-east. Like bleached bones in the landscape, the shields will speak of the knowledge from this region, which is embedded not only in cultural objects, but in country.