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Karen Reys

Search terms: Prints, color prints, limited edition prints, colour prints, black and white prints

Artist's Statement:

Dedicated to my father the late Stephen Stanley Reys.

"I was born in November 1965, of the Badjala, Darrba language group."

"In a moment of stillness I closely observed the shadows of a nearby tree. As it lay by my feet it seemed to shelter and warm the earth as if it were protecting and guiding the earth in unison with the spirits of our ancestors. As the tree and shadows inevitably had their place in the landscape I felt there too was a place for me, I just had to search for it."

"When I reflect on my journey of self-discovery over the past nine years it seems as though I was destined to come to Perth to learn more about my culture. As you grow up you begin to ask questions about your identity and that’s when things seem to fall into place and make sense. My grandparents didn’t speak openly about their culture because of the pain and hurt they had experienced and lived through as children and as adults. A generation forbidden to speak their language, to practice their culture and told to forget their past. At the age of sixty, my father was just beginning to express his hurt in writing: They got warning the police were coming. The mothers gathered their babies and sent the older ones running. Told to follow the river and never return. The children heard gun shots yells and screams and saw their bark hut burn. They followed the river for three days, three nights, mourned, shivered and feared snake bites. Found by woodcutters who did them no harm. They took them to Shaws Hill to the nearest farm. The owners kept them there worked them without pay. They never saw their parents again to this very day. The words in this poem are so very true, because this is what happened to my mother, two aunties and uncle. I now live in sorrow for what they went through."

"Dad told stories of the difficulties that indigenous people faced because of their removal from the land and now it seems that I am destined to tell of some of the difficulties experienced through its return in my own way.
After what seemed a long wait the day of the handover arrived. It was 12 March 2002. The Queensland Government was transferring land back to the descendants of the original land owners. I was about to meet relatives that I had only heard about on a land that I would become part of. On the flight over to Cairns I had imagined the ceremony to be rich in history, emotion, dance and culture just like to ones you sometimes see in documentaries. But that’s not how it happened. There was no traditional song and dance to consecrate the ceremony. It seemed cold-hearted. I was eager to capture the spiritual essence of the ceremony but my immediate reaction was one of concern. As the day progressed I unwillingly observed the veiled tension and division within the family. Apparently it had only existed since the onset of land claims in the fight for identity and ownership. Ironically the land came to signify both unity and division within the group. After the ceremony had passed I asked Mum what the transfer of land meant to her:
It wasn’t just a block of dirt that was being given back; it was my heritage, my culture and my identity. The land is my heartbeat, it’s who I am. I was given back part of what was taken away from us; a part of something that we can never understand. Now we’re trying to find our culture and trying to find our identity."

"On the return flight to Perth I allowed myself to absorb the echoing screams of terror as the Rabbit Proof Fence screened as the in-flight movie. Uncontrollable tears were shed in remembrance of my ancestors and their separation from land and family whilst the whispers of sense of place and belonging uplifted my spirits. My experiences thus far have led me to truly appreciate the land and my culture and the difficulties involved in returning something so precious that has been missing for so long."
Karen Reys

Solo Exhibitions:

2004 - Where Is my Place of Belonging, Gomboc Gallery, Middle Swan, WA
2000 - Badjala, Kulcha, Multi-Cultural Association, Fremantle, WA

Group Exhibitions:

2004 - On Track, Contemporary Aboriginal Art from Western Australia, Perth, WA
2003 - Shell Fremantle Print Art Award, Fremantle, WA
2003 - Now You See It 2, City of Swan, Midland, WA
2003 - Continuum, Perth College, Mount Lawley, WA
2002 - Public Art Exhibition, Midland Redevelopment Authority, Midland, WA

Framed Limited Edition 10
55 x 53 cm

Framed Limited Edition 10
28 x 21 cm

Framed Limited Edition 10
55 x 50 cm

To view more of Karen's works please visit the Gomboc Gallery website at

Copyright Statement: The images and photographs on this website are copyright and may not be downloaded or reproduced using any means, without the express written permission of the copyright holder.

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Page last updated 27 February, 2007