Two violences

Two violences: from ‘Diary & Letters of Admiral Sir C.H. Fremantle GCB Relating to the Founding of the Colony of Western Australia 1829’ (2019) laser cut map

I would like to begin by acknowledging that this artwork concerns Noongar’s People, their history of being colonised, and their ancestral lands. I wish to acknowledge and respect the Noongar People’s continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of Western Australia.

I was born in New York, grew up in London and now live in Scotland. I grew up knowing that a member of the family had been involved in colonising Australia and that there was a part of Perth named after him. I inherited the ‘Diary & Letters of Admiral Sir C.H. Fremantle GCB Relating to the Founding of the Colony of Western Australia 1829’ from my father, who in turn had been given it by his Uncle. It had been privately printed around the time of the Centenary of the Colony. The author is my four times great uncle (i.e. five generations before me). Fremantle (1800-1869) had in 1829 ‘taken formal possession of the Western Coast of New Holland in the name of King George the Fourth’ and he had of course planted the Union Jack. The Diary documents the day to day activity of colonisation between April and August of that year, and his views during his return visit in 1832.

I developed this artwork using a nautical chart given to me by a member of the family who had visited Fremantle. I purchased more nautical charts for the project. I myself haven’t been to Australia.

At Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen, where I am a lecturer and researcher, we have an interest in ‘deep mapping.’ I became involved in practice-led research through the On The Edge Research project, and the first phase of work which questioned the imposition of urban modalities of the arts on rural contexts. I was the Director of the Scottish Sculpture Workshop, located 35 miles due west of Aberdeen in the foothills of the Cairngorms.

I met the artist, architect and researcher Gavin Renwick at the point where he had already started working in the Canadian Northwest Territories with the Dene People, travelling up through Yellow Knife to spend often 6 months in the North. He was working as a Cultural Intermediary at their request on their Land Claim and was undertaking his PhD at the University of Dundee.

We undertook a live project with On The Edge, Gavin Renwick leading a team to explore the reconfiguration of life in the North East Scotland landscape over 5000 years as a way to think about coming changes. Renwick brought what he had learnt about understanding land in Canada to bear on that small part of rural Aberdeenshire. His de-colonial practice enabled us to see the history of agricultural improvements and planned villages in the light of settler behaviours, particularly around reorganising life for economic reasons.

Deep mapping continues to be an important focus. What it means to be indigenous, to be an incomer or a stranger are all of concern. But the family connection to the colonisation of Western Australia remains an unresolvable reality.

Deborah Bird Rose suggests that there are two violences of colonisation, one to the flora and fauna and the other to the indigenous peoples. She says,

“As I have argued elsewhere, we settlers, or settler-descendants, are the inheritors of the spoils of a dual war: one war was fought against the natives, and one against nature.” (Rose 2003, 53)

Reading the Diary with these two violences in mind, transcribing sections where fauna are killed and where indigenous people are encountered, finding key passages which capture and clarify the violences, are all that it is possible to do so far. Putting this material onto a nautical chart seems appropriate – most of the rest of the diary concerns navigation, weather and ship management. This opens up a relationship with my predecessor and perhaps potentially also with people in a place I don’t know.

There are a couple of questions, derived by Veryln Klinkenborg from Barry Lopez, which seem relevant.

“What if the perspective you could imagine for yourself, the foundation for your ethics and your politics, was not the condescending now of right now?” Here’s another: What if you were able “to see the world from someone else’s point of view without fearing the loss of [your] own position”? (Klinkenborg 2019, 57)

Beyond that as Audre Lorde says in Uses of Anger, “…it is very difficult to stand still and listen…”, but that is all I can do now.


Chris Fremantle is an arts worker, researcher and producer. He lectures at Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen. He established ecoartscotland in 2010 and is involved in various ecoart networks. He has written in collaboration with Anne Douglas on the practice of pioneering ecoartists Helen Mayer Harrison (1927-2018) and Newton Harrison (b.1932), known as ‘the Harrisons’. He has also worked with them on projects in the UK, acting as Producer for Greenhouse Britain: Losing Ground, Gaining Wisdom (2006-08), and Associate Producer for On the Deep Wealth of this Nation, Scotland (2017-ongoing).

With thanks to Michael Agnew and Neil Cobban, for the idea of and the doing of the laser cutting, and Fergus Connor, for the photography.



Fremantle, C.H. 1929. Diary & Letters of Admiral Sir C. H. Fremantle GCB Relating to the Founding of the Colony of Western Australia 1829. Privately Printed

Rose, D.B. 2003. ‘Decolonising the discourse of environmental knowledge in settler societies’. In Culture and Waste: The Creation and Destruction of Value, G. Hawkins & S. Muecke, eds, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, pp. 53-72.

Klinkenborg, V. 2019. ‘The Voice of the Landscape’ (review of ‘Horizon’ by Barry Lopez). New York Review of Books, Vol LXVI, Number 14.

Lorde, A. 2018. Audre Lorde: The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House. Penguin Modern.

National Native Title Tribunal, 2005. South West Native Title Applications & Determination Areas As per the Federal Court (31 December 2005).

South West Aboriginal Land & Sea Council, 2018. Noongar Consultation Protocol Guidelines Swan and Canning Rivers Iconic Trails Project. Online. Available from: accessed 16 October 2019.

South West Aboriginal Land & Sea Council, 2011. Noongar Protocols Welcome To Country. Online. Available from: accessed 16 October 2019.

US Department of Arts and Culture. Honor Native Land: A Guide and Call to Acknowledgement. Online. Available from: accessed 27 September 2019.

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