William Buckley: Belonging / Deb Fisher

I have loved spending the time to look back at the past. I see Buckley as almost the calm before the storm, a reminder of the beautiful and unique way of life of the Wada wurrung before the impact of the European arrival.

In creating my own work in response to Buckley, as usual I became most fascinated with the flora and fauna.

The Lobster Pot in Barwon Heads, Narana and the Barwon River itself provided such a wealth of information and current day specimens. I collected the different plants, crustaceans and shells and took them back to my studio where I created my own type of midden. I worked out best where to place them amongst other related objects. I am not interested in botanical detail instead I focus on a painterly approach to shape, form and capturing the essence of each object and its interweaving connection. The native vegetation and wildlife was just so vital to daily life and the diet of the Wada wurrung people. I kept marvelling that such an abundance of food, shelter and medicines were right at Buckley’s fingertips and yet for such a long time, he remained completely unaware and unskilled in how to obtain them. It was the generosity of the Wada wurrung, their ingenuity and local knowledge that has resonated with me.

  • The most significant part of the Buckley story for me is the change in the relationship that I believe Buckley must have had with the Australian landscape. For those lonely, desolate months after his escape when he was completely alone, unprepared and unskilled. Everything must have been so alien to him. Buckley must have almost felt almost ‘repelled’ by his surroundings and I have found to so remarkable that, with the knowledge shared with him by the Wathaurong people, he was able to turn his situation completely around. To survive by his hand and to flourish.
  • I’m lucky enough to walk along the Barwon River most mornings and it was there I would think about Buckley’s daily life that was dictated by the seasons and the changing food sources. Buckley life depended on his understanding and connection to the land. That’s pretty extraordinary.At Narana there’s some fabulous traditional equipment and information on Bush Medicine.

    The William Buckley Learning Box and the Geelong Gallery is still a lovely adventure in itself. In one of the little drawers is a copy of Batman’s Treaty. That’s where I got the inspiration for the Scissors – 50 bloody pairs of scissors in exchange for the ‘ownership’ of the land!

    I despair for that period of time, yes for Buckley, but more importantly, the Wathaurong people and the Kulin Nations.

  • One of the many highlights of this whole experience would include the discussions that I was lucky enough to engage in with the other artists over our weekend coffee at Boom. To bring our artistic inspirations and feelings about Buckley and our rich local indigenous history into our thoughts after a busy week made the experience so valuable.Look here to see full list of Deb’s work