This May, Critical Path’s First Nations curator Jasmin Sheppard, initiated a Truth Telling research residency, whereby a First Nations artist teamed up with Indigenous archive departments at both AIATSIS (National Indigenous archives) and Powerhouse Museum.
Henrietta Baird is the recipient of this year’s residency and has spent the first week in our Critical Path Research Room and onsite at the Powerhouse and AIATSIS, immersed in archival documents of her family records and language archives.
“I applied wanting to find out more about The Kuku Yalanji Language, I felt this was important to me and also my family as it is the Language that was written by my Grandfathers Father Norman Baird. The first two days of the first week, I was given access to the Research Room at Critical Path, followed by a visit to the Powerhouse museum, with the last remaining three days in Canberra at AIATSIS. First two days was just trying to find key words to use for research of Robert Baird and go back to the source. Finding out this Scottish man had come to Australia becoming the first Mayor of Cooktown and marrying an Aboriginal woman from Far North Queensland, which in those days was forbidden and is apparently what lost him his Mayorship. He had two sons of which one of them was my Grandfathers Father, Norman Baird – an Aboriginal/ Scottish Man who fought for his Country and enlisted in WW1. A man that also wrote the Kuku Yalanji language and collected plant specimens that were important to his mother’s people. These specimens were said to be sent to the Royal Botanic Gardens which made me feel like my practice was all the more meaningful.”
The opportunity to have supported time to access this material can mean the world to the Cultural, Familial, and artistic growth and opportunities for First Nations creatives.
“I recommend this residency to any Artist that wants to find their truth – it’s raw it’s real and it was my families truth. Truths are important. It starts with your ancestors, and filters through you – their stories run through your blood and become your stories. Knowing or finding out who my ancestors are makes me feel proud and makes me want to step up and tell our stories. I know who I am.”
Henrietta will continue on with a week at the Drill Hall in September, to delve deeper into how this research and new-found knowledge impact her choreographic processes.