Michael Cook’s series The Mission is currently showing at the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery. The series traces the journey of an Aboriginal woman from her homeland to a Christian mission, where she arrives in handcuffs. Life on the mission introduces her to Western clothing, food rations, tobacco, and even a husband. Yet, her baby is stolen following a Christian wedding. Symbolically, in the final image she returns to her Country.
‘The existence of missions and reserves enabled the implementation of policies by which children of mixed Aboriginal and European heritage were forcibly removed from Aboriginal societies and placed in so-called ‘half-caste’ institutions where they were trained for service and assimilation into the vision of a white Australia. Such policies continued well into the 20th century, and the people directly affected by them are known as the Stolen Generations.’ (Michael Cook)
The Mission was created using a range of archival imagery, including family photographs and documents from his personal collection. The baby in two of the works is Michael himself.