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Media: Australian history explored in Biennale of Sydney artwork about female convict turned pirate

Posted by Greer Carland on


An Englishwoman wearing a floor-length dress stands alone on a wooden ship. A man wrestles her to the ground, but she overthrows him, killing him with a musket. She seizes the wheel, music rising and falling as she looks out at the ocean. The southern skies glitter with stars. The Milky Way swirls around her.

The woman I'm watching is Charlotte Badger, Australia's first female pirate.

This little-known historical figure is the subject of Nomads of the Sea, an ambitious new video work by Lisa Reihana, an artist of Maori (Nga Puhi, Ngati Hine, Ngai Tuteauru) and British descent.

Reihana is one of Aotearoa New Zealand's major artists, representing her country at the 2017 Venice Biennale with her monumental panoramic video work In Pursuit of Venus [infected], a kind of 'animated wallpaper' that depicted First Contact as a series of encounters in which Maori and First Nations communities observed, engaged with and resisted their European colonisers.

Nomads of the Sea is playing in a dark chamber within a labyrinth of sandstone workshops on Cockatoo Island, as part of NIRIN: the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, curated by Brook Andrew.