Cultural Precinct

by Natalie Harkin


All this creating speaking breathing on Kaurna country demands more than just an acknowledgment of a peoples past present and future, for this place, this space, is abundant with stories and strong families who have always had agency, moving through and resisting what this particular cultural-precinct represents: Tarnanthi – rise, come-forth, spring-up, appear. Right here, in this potent-place, you will find Festival offerings beyond a feast of art, for this cultural-precinct along Adelaide’s North Terrace is no easy place for everyone to navigate…. these limestone walls whisper a conglomerate fragmented journey that has lead us, toward this day, surrounded by precious gifts like these images, these hanging skirts, these glass bush-yams, these baskets, and now, in this moment, I call on you to reflect on the very walls from which they hang...


these limestone walls      frame institutions of power              shape the
‘main story’       this colonial ‘free’ State       /           these North Terrace
statues                bronzed famous faces               symbols of colonialism
Empire-revered                /                         next door the Parade Ground
original quarry       raw materials morph     grand buildings abound      /
limestone mined           from this old Kaurna campsite     Red-Kangaroo
stories      ripped from the ground    /        these limestone walls    these
limestone walls             /        consider this Armory           that housed a
morgue             cells and gallows            watch our people hang           /
see mounted police             perform military functions      “pacified” our
warriors             on colonial frontiers      /     these wretched walls   this
Armory building               hear horses-hooves gallop     on cobblestoned
blood             /           this limestone heritage   revered cultural-precinct
our bodies stolen                                                                              de-
fleshed and preserved           /             these limestone walls          these
limestone walls         /           consider this place    the South Australian
Museum      their proudest collection wins     the Empire’s great race    /
an uncanny replica            London’s Natural History Museum           but
what is ‘natural’       about their history of this place?      /    they ‘set up
camp’                   on great expeditions                to study and collect us
‘experts’ in teams     /       their cabinets of curiosity     their objects and
specimens         their racialised hierarchy       our human remains        /
these limestone walls        these limestone walls       /        the Migration
Museum              was the old Protector’s Office           the Rations Depot
the Colonial Store        /         blankets and flour     sugar and tea     the
removal of children      the first Kaurna school    /     and behind the Art
Gallery            the Radford Auditorium      the ammunitions-store      for
military-police               /       then a storage-place            for Aboriginal
Records         where paper-trails trace          surveillance and control    /
consider the paperwork            the archiving process       to consign and
classify      this resource maintained  /   consider this fantasy  monolith-
archive         its stunning all-knowing         so easily sustained              /
these limestone walls      these limestone walls  /  strive to navigate this
violent place      be still and listen    there are waterholes here  /    these
fresh water springs                flow a limestone-memory          erode and
expose         our truth will appear.



Natalie Harkin is a Narungga woman from the Chester family in South Australia.  She is activist-poet and academic, and her words have been installed in exhibitions comprising text-object-video projection. She has been a column writer for Overland and her first poetry manuscript, Dirty Words, was published by Cordite Books in 2015. This piece reflects on the TARNANTHI Festival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, Art Gallery of South Ausralia.

Issue 9: NATIONS, November 2016.