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Boggo Road Gaol Art Exhibition

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by Polly Warburton (subscribe)
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Boggo Road Gaol is currently exhibiting prison and indigenous art until 30th September 2015. It features 43 pieces of artwork from indigenous artist Robert Henderson, as well as 9 works from former prisoners Wayne Weaver and Mark Flewell-Smith depicting their time behind bars.

I took my Dad along on opening night last Saturday not knowing quite what to expect. When I think of Boggo Road Gaol, weekend markets and ghost tours typically come to mind. But as one of the most notorious prisons in Australian history and a place that carries heavy memories for Wayne and Mark, it is the perfect location for this exhibition. Dad and I walked away with a sense of how art can not only help indigenous artists connect with their People and history, but also be used in rehabilitating prisoners for re-entry into the community.

Robert Henderson has had two Archibald entries, is Wiradyuri, and only recently became an artist. He won $1 in a portrait competition in primary school (which he insisted was a lot in those days). But when Robert proudly returned home with his winnings he was accused of stealing. Since developing a newfound interest in visual art and taking up painting only a few years ago, he has felt driven by a spirituality and connection with his People. For example, after completing one piece of work (currently on display in the exhibition) he discovered the painting contained a star formation which was visible in the early 1800s when his People were being massacred. Perhaps poignantly, Robert still carries around that $1 note in his wallet.

For Wayne, art played a fundamental role in his rehabilitation and life since prison. He is now passionate about setting up art programs for prisoners as a way of expressing themselves and channelling their emotions, particularly pertinent given the link between incarceration and mental illness. Since his release 16 years ago, Wayne has also taught art to homeless children and those with poor literacy.

The artwork is on display in Number 2 Division, which is otherwise known as the home to 'lifers' and has been kept just as it was when the Gaol officially closed in 2002. Number 2 Division also exhibits three landscape murals painted by inmate and artist Ray Wallace in 1988.

Art has played an integral role for these three artists and their exhibition is worth a visit. A permanent gallery will also be set up for indigenous artists and prisoners who are artists following the exhibition. For further details visit
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Where: Boggo Road Gaol
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