In the fullness of time, Qld educators will appreciate the syntegrated approach to local history provided by an acclaimed indigenous artist who ‘operated by stealth.’
In 2008, Kevin Rudd apologized to the Indigenous people of Australia. This apology was the beginning not the end of a process orientation to reconciliation throughout the land.
The multi media project called Black Opium is an example of a syntegrated approach to education. Using a multimodal approach, Foley brings into the consciousness of Australian people, not only the reason for the apology, but the long lasting nature of the effects of the injustices that brought about the need for such deeply felt introspection.
Foley has provided for educators who would like to become a part of the move towards reconciliation in Australia a strategy for action. Many have longed for such a sensitively presented educational tool.
A Context for Understanding Suppressed AU History
Foley, described by ABC commentator Bruce James in 2001, as “one of the most distinguished artists to have emerged in Australia over the last decade,” has yet again made the right mark, in the right place, for the right purpose and to the right effect!At the Symposium called Black Opium held at the Queensland State Library (Feb, 09) Foley called herself an educator. She said her work provides Queenslanders, both black and white, with an opportunity to confront and understand parts of recent local history.
The multimedia installation is layered with meaning. It reveals a time when Aboriginal people were often paid for their labors in opium. Whilst this robbed them of their health and sometimes their lives, the resultant Act that was toted as being created to control this situation, became the yolk of imprisonment that caused the blight on Australian history called “The Stolen Generation.”
The Black Opium Installation – A Description
In the ceiling of the State Library Foley has suspended 777 silver opium poppies. They hang in the shape of a sideways figure eight symbolizing infinity. As viewers walk past this beautiful intriguing work they are lead by a series of seven small booths, which represent different ambiences and cultures. Historical themes are subtly explored in a gentle way that assists the viewers to uncover suppressed memory.
Foley has taken responsibility for the impact she may have on all members of our society. She offers this well grounded informational artwork beside the library which contains authentic historical documents. From them she has distilled unpleasant realities about Queenslands’ recent past.
The project, a permanent acquisition of the library, consists of video, photographic material, text and other material woven together to create a revelatory trail. At no stage does Foley give the impression that she wishes to aggressively confront, to harm, shame or blame her audience.
She presents the material in such a way as to take great care that the viewer is invited to stay and to share to the capacity they are able. She does this with a view to creating understanding and a chance for reconciliation characterized by depth.
Situational Transactional Multi Media
The crux of Foley’s skill as an educator is her ability, and the sincere desire, to scaffold learning in such a way as to draw the learner forward. As she does so, she slowly brings a variety of aspects of her subject matter into focus.
By starting with the beautiful infinity sign hanging above the heads of the audience, she causes the students of history, art or the social sciences to ask “What does this mean?” From here a tale of inquiry is catalyzed, but not forced on students. They are able to browse at their own pace and to check documents and read history, when and if they can.
Educare – Foley Educates With Care
Craft (1984) noted that there are two different Latin roots of the English word education. They are to train or to mold, and to lead out. While the two meanings are quite different, they are both represented by our word education.
Within the context of an amazing breakthrough both in educational style and strategy, as well as a syntegrated approach to teaching educators and children about history through a blend of artistic mediums – Foley can be acclaimed as a woman who “Educates With Care.”
In Global Citizens Creative Arts Text we are highly influenced by Foley’s style when making a multi-cultural installation for the classroom.
- Craft, M. Education for Diversity. In Education and cultural pluralism, ed. M. Craft, 5–26. London and Philadelphia: Falmer Press. Deming, W. E. 1994
- James.B.. Fiona Foley. Artists Profile ABC Nat. 2001
- Kubler. A. Fiona Foley and her fearful symmetry. State Library of Queensland. Feb 2010.
- Russell-Bowie. D. MMADD about the arts! An Introduction to Primary Arts Education. Prentice Hall. NSW.AU 2006
- Syntegration a Model of Integration: Multimedia Arts are Ideal for Syntegrative Teaching Styles.