Little Jock’s bag…

Earlier this year, Albany visual artist Annette Davis told me about her proposed entry in the 2021 Bunbury Biennale, and it was an honour to hear that she was taking as her inspiration an image from my novel The Sinkings.

The Biennale’s curator, Caroline Lunel, describes the theme of this year’s Biennale, He She They, as springing from

the belief that gender continues to be a much relevant and current topic, particularly within the visual arts. Our culture is becoming increasingly more diverse, as we progress beyond the social idea that gender only comes in two forms, thus exposing the complexity of gender related issues.

A selection of 37 cis gender, queer, and nonbinary artists have been invited to explore and interpret this extensive theme…

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the exhibition at the Bunbury Regional Art Gallery. Here are Annette Davis’s artist statement and her fascinating work, Carrier Bags

I am interested in the item of a bag as the carrier of identity.

I’ve been inspired by the novel The Sinkings by Western Australian author Amanda Curtin, which starts with a real event from 1882—a brutal murder at the Sinkings, a well near Albany. The victim is Little Jock, who has lived most of his life as a male, though at the autopsy the body remains are described as female. In today’s terms, Little Jock would have been known as intersex.

The basic known facts of Little Jock are the starting point for this story. In the novel Little Jock becomes the subject of research by a contemporary woman, Willa, whose own child was born with ambiguous genitalia. Following medical advice, the child was operated on and grew up as a girl. In her teens she discovered the truth of the medical procedures done to her, and leaves home distraught and angry. The novel weaves Little Jock’s story with Willa’s research, and her feelings of longing for her child.

Little Jock has a bushel bag in which he keeps some women’s clothes, including an embroidered vest. This tightly woven bag hides its contents, just as Little Jock hid his identity. The other suspended bags carry the stories of contemporary intersex people on the paper from which they have been woven. The weaving style of the bags reflects the loosening of society’s attitudes and a growing acceptance of gender diversity.

Annette Davis, Carrier Bags, 2021

He She They is at the Bunbury Regional Art Gallery until 6 June 2021.


Filed under The Sinkings

4 responses to “Little Jock’s bag…

  1. What a wonderful post. I love the inspiration for this beautiful, sensitive artwork, as I loved reading The Sinkings and being immersed in a lesser known world.

  2. Lovely. What a fabulous response to one of my favourite books.

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