By Trent Jansen
Broached Monster Collection – Pankalangu Credenza | 2017
Queensland walnut, copper, brass and moulded plywood
95H x 200W x 54D (cm)
37.4H × 78.74W × 21.26D (in)
Price Available Upon Request
Broached monsters by Trent Jansen
The vast majority of mainstream Australian mythology commonly used as a foundation for Australian identity is culturally exclusive. Both Indigenous myths, including post-colonial myths and precolonial dreaming stories, and non-indigenous Australian myths, including the bush legend, ANZAC tradition and convict legend, focus on the historical role that the race of authorship has played in building the nation. However, a contemporary understanding of Australian history acknowledges the contribution of both Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians in forging the nation, and the national identity which accompanies it. Instead of perpetuating the same exclusive national myths, perhaps Australians should adopt a national mythology that acknowledges this inclusive understanding of Australian history, a mythology that unites Australians of many backgrounds under a shared Australian identity.
In his book on Australia’s Folklore of Fear, Robert Holden explores pre-colonial ideas of Australia as a Great Southern Land – an imaginary landmass conjured up to counterbalance the continents in the northern hemisphere, as far removed as possible from Britain, the center of the Christian world (Holden, 2001). Holden speaks of Australia as an imaginary world, occupied by unimaginable creatures and monsters.
Holden is commenting in part on the mythical creatures that originated in both British and Aboriginal Australian folklore and were shared by the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal inhabitants of Sydney during the early years of colonisation. Stories of the yahoo, a creature that resembled a slender man, with long white straight hair, extraordinarily long arms and great talons (Unknown 1842), captured the imaginations of the new British settlers, and soon a fear of the yahoo became a common ground between Aboriginal people and British settlers. is fear of a gruesome and vicious creature gained its potency from the folkloric tales that were used to substantiate its existence. These tales were suitably vague, their lack of detail
attributed to the fierce nature of these creatures and the assumption that no one had survived an encounter (Holden, Thomas et al. 2001).
The yahoo “became one of the very few Aboriginal legends to be embraced by the Europeans” (Holden, Thomas et al. 2001, p16), providing a catalyst for conversation between individuals from these two culturally disparate societies and forming some personal links between these communities. Could creature myths like the yahoo once again form the foundation of a united national identity, bring together our culturally disparate population under a single Australian mythology?