Jenna Lee

guyu-gwa ganagawai
(fire grips me/fire warms me)

4 July – 3 August

Opening: Thursday 11 July, 6-8pm

Jenna Lee is a Gulumerridjin (Larrakia), Wardaman and KarraJarri Saltwater woman with mixed Japanese, Chinese, Filipino and Anglo-Australian ancestry. 


As part of her ongoing practice of dealing with legacies of colonial linguicide, Jenna Lee has transformed multiple pages from Aboriginal Words and Place Names, a widely published book that presents First Nations words without any connection to people or place. In this context, her actions, many of which involve fire, become tools of rejuvenation and rebirth, breathing new life into the previously dislocated words embedded on the page. 


guyu-gwa ganagawai (fire grips me/fire warms me) explores the transformation and reclamation of language and the power of fire as a ceremonial and spiritual healing practice for the Gulumerridjin (Larrakia) people. 


Woven Grasstrees form a core motif of her ongoing practice. The tree itself is pyrophytic, requiring fire for healthy growth and germination. Woven from many lengths of hand-twisted string using pages of the same Aboriginal word compendium, these forms demonstrate how First Peoples language is embedded in everything, in the land and all around us. 


The small installation featuring a found table and pigment jars contains the burnt remnants of this flawed book, presented as a transformed pigment made of words, offering a new means of writing language.


In a new series of text works, Lee has burnt Gulumerridjin words relating to fire into vintage indexing cards to capture the essence of the words and as a meditative process of relearning language. 


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