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Journey. A poetic story by Alison J. Barton with Artist Talk – SomoS Arts | 23.02.2024

Editors’ Choice

On 23 February 2024, SomoS presents a poetry reading by Naarm (Melbourne) based Wiradjuri poet Alison J. Barton from her collection ‘Journey’, written during her writer residency. The reading, which explores the interwoven histories of Indigenous Australians and early Lutheran immigrants from Germany, will be followed by an artist talk with visual artist Gabriela Hirt, moderated by Berlin-based Australian curator Nicole Beck. The evening will feature a selection of paintings that Hirt and Beck worked on together during their time in Berlin.

Image above: Gabriela Hirt – Reise – Courtesy: SomoS Arts

“Reise” highlights the complex relationships between Indigenous Australians and the early German Lutheran immigrants to South Australia (c.1830-1860) who established missions where Indigenous Australians from many nations across the country settled. Whilst the detrimental impact of the missions on Aboriginal Australians and the role the missions played in wider genocide is well known in Australia, there is a lack of general knowledge about the more nuanced relationships between this particular group of German immigrants and Aboriginal people. As a person of mixed German and Wiradjuri ancestry, Alison J. Barton is a direct descendant of both groups and therefore in a unique position to explore this topic in all its nuances.

The collection “Reise” highlights the duality of the missions as sites of genocide during the British invasion and illegal land occupation beginning in 1788 and contrasts it with the safety that some German missionaries provided to indigenous peoples so that they could continue to practice their cultural traditions and use indigenous languages. The poems tell of oppression and missionisation, but also of the indigenous lives that the Germans saved in the missions and of cultural practices that were secretly promoted under the protection of the missionaries.

The poems interrogate a variety of perspectives and illustrate the oppression of Native peoples, the attempted eradication of a culture, and how some Germans endeavoured to protect Native peoples and helped preserve indigenous culture. Ultimately, Reise defies the historical record and public understanding of Australian history by condensing historical theories into poetic narratives to create new knowledge and understanding of this time and place.

DEEDS.NEWS - SomoS - Reise - Alison J Barton - photo by Gabriela Hirt
Alison J Barton, photo: Gabriela Hirt, courtesy: SomoS Arts

Participating artists

Alison J. Barton is an award-winning poet from Australia with degrees in professional writing and editing, social work and gender studies. Of mixed German and Wiradjuri heritage, she is interested in race, Aboriginal history and Indigenous oppression. Her poetry and lyrics have been published in Australian and international poetry and literary journals, including Best of Australian Poems 2022, the Liquid Amber Prize Anthology: Poetry of Encounter, Meanjin, Overland, Cordite, Australian Poetry Journal, Otoliths, Rabbit, Westerly Mag, StylusLit, the Mascara Literary Review Resilience Anthology, The Storms (Ireland), Poethead (Ireland), The Night Heron Barks (USA), Under Bunjil, Yarra Libraries Receipt Poetry, Bluebottle Journal, and LinkBund.

Nicole Beck is a curator and event organiser who grew up in Hong Kong and studied in Sydney. She is interested in working with multidisciplinary approaches to exploring community, care and creativity. During her curatorial residency at SomoS in 2022, Beck developed and curated the highly acclaimed international group exhibition RE-, which brought together local and Australian artists and performers from diverse backgrounds and explored the potential of re-enactment as a way to reflect, heal and adapt the past.

Gabriela Hirt is a mixed media artist who combines movement with collage and painting. Originally from Germany, she then moved to Canada, which shifted the focus of her work to the legacy of colonialism. By painting abstracted figures, she explores the concepts of connection and disconnection in her work. During her residency at SomoS, Gabriela is working on a series of paintings in which she experiments with dance to free the narrative from its two-dimensional confines.


Friday, 23. February 2024 from 7 to 9 pm


Kottbusser Damm 95, 1.0G
10967 Berlin-Kreuzberg

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