elizabeth durack/eddie burrup

eddie burrup

some responses to the storm...

the detractors

The detractors, most of them from university arts or social science departments, took longer than the journalists to get going but once started they took on with relish the perfidy of Eddie Burrup.

Without exception they imputed base motives to Elizabeth Durack: opportunism, financial gain, deceit, theft of a culture, lack of respect and so on. A few were temperate* but most detractors set to — weaving elaborate personal speculations and post-modernist theories around identity crises, colonialist and/or paternalistic attitudes, appropriation, masquerades, hoaxes and forgeries.

[*Laurel Peel, an undergraduate from the University of Western Sydney, sought an interview with both Elizabeth and Perpetua and was an early moderate voice]

In the examples selected below not one consulted a primary source; not one attempts to examine the art produced under the name of Eddie Burrup; not one considers the possibility that Eddie Burrup had valid alternative views to that of the mainstream; not one grants that an artist with decades of direct experience of landscape and people may have gained some rare insights and have something to say worth recording; not one considers the effort involved or the excitement of what it may have been like — transported into another realm, alight with insight and energy — to create work by and for an entirely new human being. And, unlike the public at large, not one detractor saw anything conciliatory about the Eddie Burrup affair.

On the contrary, all detractors listed below denounce Durack for using as a nom de brush an Aboriginal male, for the effrontery of assuming his identity and/or for perpetrating ‘colonialist imaginations’. Several mock the voice of an old man speaking, through his life story and painting titles, in kriol — in what used to be called pidgin or Aboriginal English. A few disparage Durack’s entire oeuvre. In most cases, the detractors’ attacks are so wide of the mark of Elizabeth Durack’s/Eddie Burrup’s outlook, aspirations and motivations they would be comical were they not so pious and malicious.

  1. Julie Marcus ‘...like an Aborigine — empathy, Elizabeth Durack and the colonial imagination’ in The Olive Pink Society Bulletin Vol 9 (1 & 2) 1997
  2. Christine Dauber ‘Stand up the real Elizabeth Durack’ in Picturing the ‘Primitif’ edited by Julie Marcus, LhR Press, Canada Bay, NSW 2000
  3. Christine Nicholls From Appreciation to Appropriation: Indigenous Influences and Images in Australian Visual Art exhibition catalogue Flinders University Gallery, Adelaide, South Australia, March 2000
  4. Franchesca Cubillo ‘Elizabeth Durack: I drew very close to these men, sharing their dilemma...' in Uncommon Ground: White Women in Aboriginal History edited by Anna Cole, Victoria Haskins & Fiona Paisley, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 2000
  5. Kylie O’Connell ‘”A Dying Race”: the history and fiction of Elizabeth Durack’ in Ruinard & Tilley (eds) Fresh Cuts: Journal of Australian Studies No 67 University of Queensland Press St Lucia, 2000
  6. Fred R Myers The making of an Aboriginal High Art Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2002
  7. Marguerite Nolan ‘Elizabeth Durack, Eddie Burrup and the Art of Identification’ in Fakes and Forgeries Peter Knight and Jonathan Long (eds) Cambridge Scholars Press, Buckinghamshire, 2004

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