Warraba Weatherall (b.1987) is an installation and street artist from the Kamilaroi nation of South-West Queensland and a PhD candidate at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University. Weatherall’s practice critiques the legacies of colonisation; where social, economic and political realities perpetually validate Eurocentric ideologies. Drawing on his personal experience and cultural knowledge, he uses image, material and metaphor to contribute to a cross-cultural dialogue by offering alternate ways of seeing and understanding.
As a key principle or methodology of colonisation, surveillance was implemented and refined within the Australian colony as a means to control Indigenous lands and populations. The material which documented, categorised, indexed and tabulated Aboriginal populations during British colonisation of Australia continues to be held in the archives of national and international institutions.
In the work Single file 2018, Weatherall utilises the physical artefact of the archive to critique the prevalence of evolutionary doctrine. The physical exaggeration of the filing cabinet suggests that knowledge is far more complex and extensive than can be encompassed within non-indigenous knowledge systems and archives. The drawer is labelled “Unknown, Height 165cm, Weight 74kg, Aboriginal”, the measurements of the artist’s body. Inserting himself into the work, Weatherall highlights that he, and fellow Aboriginal peoples, remain part of the ongoing colonial systems and rhetoric that perpetuate structural violence and institutional racism. Similarly, Document 2019 presents the patterning created by a document with available and redacted knowledge in black and white.
Single file and Document are continuations of Weatherall’s investigations into colonial surveillance and the role of archives in documenting and storing information. Institutions retain data as well as large collections of Indigenous stories, artifacts, and ancestral human remains, and along with this information there are also western interpretations of the materials, which attempt to render Indigenous cultures as ‘knowable’ and ‘possessable’.
Image below: Document, 2019, wood, canvas, acrylic. Courtesy of the artist