Spit Hood (Teena McCarthy)

for Don Dale detainee Dylan Voller
and all those held in detention and suffering deaths in custody

Oh, such a pretty picture
this Kingdom of the Crown.
In a dark room
wearing white costume,
light horsemen hanging around.

Tormented souls circling
aching bodies
like vultures on a cloud.
Night becomes day,
day becomes night —
where time has no meaning
time slows down.

Oh, it’s getting dark in here,
there is no sound.
Florescent lights flicker
as mozzies attack
the stench and squirm of bodies;
in chains they’re bound.

Sorry, Kwementyaye.
Kwementyaye, I’m sorry!

When will they ever learn?

Oh, how life’s a privilege
in the Crown.

Note: Kwementyaye is an Arrernte word used for those who have died

The feature image, ‘Terror Nullius ii’, is a painting Teena McCarthy created for the 2011 exhibition, iNTervention Intervention, which she curated as a protest to the Northern Territory Emergency Response Act, aka The Intervention. 

Listen to Teena McCarthy read her poem Spit Hood

Teena McCarthy is a poet and visual artists who works predominantly in painting, photography and performance art. McCarthy’s poems have been published in Cordite and Verity La, and she has a chapbook forthcoming with Verity La Press in 2019. 

McCarthy is an Italian/Barkindji woman who is a descendant of The Stolen Generations. Her work documents her family’s displacement and Aboriginal Australian’s loss of Culture and their ‘hidden’ history. While acknowledging the intergenerational pain of post colonialism, McCarthy uses wit, humour and pathos to explore her own identity. Synchronicity also comes into play in McCarthy’s experimental painting, often determining its outcome and informing its materiality.

McCarty graduated in 2014 from UNSW Art & Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Distinction. She has exhibited extensively over the past seven years, with her most recent solo shows being Down by the River, Darling (Manly Art Gallery & Museum, 2019) and Ceremony (Art Atrium, 2018). Other selected exhibitions include: Four Women: (I do belong) Double, curated by Djon Mundine OAM (Lismore Regional Gallery, 2017); Realising Mother, curated by Zurica Pulija, with co-curators Sandy Edwards and Luke Letourneau (Kudos Galleries, UNSW Art & Design, 2017);  A Widening Gap: The Intervention, 10 Years On, curated by Djon Mundine OAM (The Cross Arts Project, Potts Point, 2017); When are the Bush Marys Coming, curated by Ann Finnegan (Cementa, 2017); ARTLANDS Old Lands, New Marks, curated by Djon Mundine OAM (Dubbo Regional Gallery, 2016); That I May be of Service – Motto of the Clan Foley, curated by Djon Mundine OAM (The Rocks Discovery Museum, 2014/15).

McCarthy was the 2018 winner of the King & Wood Mallesons Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) Art Prize. She was a finalist in the Mosman Art Prize in 2017, and in The NSW Parliament Aboriginal Art Prize in 2015 & 2014, and was commissioned in 2013 to paint the cover of the UNSW Law Faculty’s Reconciliation Action Plan, a painting which was later acquired for the UNSW Permanent Art Collection. 

In 2011 McCarthy curated iNTervention Intervention, a protest exhibition about the Northern Territory Emergency Response Act, aka The Intervention, under Brendan Penzar’s Curator Mentorship Program at ATVP gallery. This show drew local and international acclaim, and the exhibition was recently acknowledged as the first of its kind in the book ‘And there’ll be NO dancing’: Perspectives on Policies Impacting Indigenous Australia since 2007 (Baehr, E. & Schmidt-Haberkamp, B. Eds., Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017 ).