Sacrifice 1992

As Aboriginal people, we have to sacrifice ourselves, something of ourselves, all the time to be a bit more like what non-Aboriginal people want us to be. Sacrifice was the first conceptual exhibition; the first time I had reflected on Christianity, and history of mission life, Aboriginal missions. I was exploring images from childhood – being sent to Sunday School and wondering what the hell this strange concept of religion is for an Aboriginal kid growing up in the bush. It’s about history, about how Aboriginal people were thrown onto reserves and missions and told not to speak languages, not to conduct ceremony or song. MR

Michael Riley described Sacrifice as his first ‘conceptual’ photographic series; within this definition, it precedes flyblown 1998 and cloud 2000. The 15 black-and-white images focus on icons and symbols of the degradation of Aboriginal culture. Riley addresses the repercussions of an imposed religion and reflects on the effects of substance abuse; both implicated in the ongoing processes of conquering and colonisation and the sacrifices Aboriginal people have had to make as a result. Sacrifice was the first time Riley had discussed Christianity in his work, a theme which reappears in later series flyblown and cloud, and several of his films. The series Sacrifice is held in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.

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