Colonisation 1 by Jennifer Kemarre Martinello


Jennifer Kemarre Martinello

Opening 6pm Friday 8 July 2022

8 July – 21 August 2022

As a senior Aboriginal woman, an educator and mentor as well as a writer and artist, under Grandmother’s Law my role is not just to keep knowledge and pass it on, it is also to awaken and stimulate, guide and nurture. And to shatter silences. The purpose of this exhibition is to challenge dominant socio-culture taboos by breaking silences shrouding what is not spoken, what is hidden out of fear or discomfort. I intend to break the silence around Colonisation by documenting my Cancer Journey, both taboos people shy away from talking about. And by doing so I aim to start conversations about both, because conversation reveals, demystifies and heals, as does the Land, our Mother.

In 2013 I was diagnosed with Stage Three lung cancer. I was given what was referred to as “a radical curative intervention with no guarantees” – four months of chemo followed by 30 treatments of radiation. In 2014 metastatic tumours were detected in my spine and brain, which were treated with palliative radiation and Stereo-Tactic Radiation Surgery (STRS) respectively. And two more brain metastases in 2016 and 2017, also treated with STRS. Cancer is hidden, silent and can spread and occupy its host undetected – unless it is actively looked for and identified.

Similarly, Colonisation is defined as socio-cultural and geographic occupation and decimation. It is also named as a parallel ecological and biological pathogenic process which is diagnosed and tracked in the environmental and medical sciences. And there is a fourth dimension of Colonisation – psychological. The most destructive and debilitating form of colonisation is ‘mental colonisation’, which invades, infects, multiplies and spreads, occupies and decimates beliefs, understandings, identity, ideas, behaviours, hopes and dreams. And like cancer, it is very often hidden, infiltrates silently over lifetimes and generations, sets up up camp in minds and goes undetected until deliberately sought out, identified and eliminated. Colonisation is a tumour in the consciousness of this nation that requires a ‘radical curative intervention’ if we are to survive and thrive.

During my treatment and recovery my daily mental mantra was “No squatters on this country! I won’t have it!” This was quietly and emphatically reinforced by the voice of my Grandmother’s Law, trust the Ancestors to hold you and your Land to take care of you. Underscoring those were the deeply-appreciated words of a wise oncology nurse when I first started chemo – “Remember, no side effect is compulsory” (Oncology nurse, CRCC, 2013).

Important Definitions:

1. noun: colonisation (from Oxford Languages

a. the action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area

b. the action of appropriating a place or domain for one’s own use

c. In ecology – the action by a plant or animal of establishing itself in an area

d. In biology

• ” colonisation means infection and it is the first stage of microbial infection by the establishment of the pathogen…”

• “Infection is the invasion of a host’s bodily tissues by disease-causing organisms”

2. noun: metastasis (meh-tuh-STA-sis)

The spread of cancer from the primary site (place where it started) to other places in the body where cells travel through the blood or lymph system, and form new tumours (metastatic tumours) in other parts of the body.


About Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello

Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello is an award-winning multidisciplinary artist of Aboriginal (Southern Arrernte), Chinese and Anglo-Celtic descent. She graduated from Canberra School of art with a BA (Vis) majoring in Sculpture in 1985. Her Awards include the 2013 Telstra NAATSIA Award, 2016 Bay of Fires Award and 2012 Wollatuka Art Prize. Her works are held in major private and public collections in Australia, the UK, USA, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific. She is an active advocate for the arts in the ACT and region and works from her studio at Canberra Glassworks.


Many thanks to Spike Deane, casting enabler extraordinaire, the ‘A Team’ at Canberra Regional Cancer Centre – Dr Angela Rezo, Dr Sayed Ali, Dr Andrew Lee, Dr Geoffery Peters and the amazing chemotherapy and radiation teams, my Canberra Glassworks colleagues and my incredible family for their support.