Kanguroots was selected as one of fifteen gardens for the inaugural International garden Festival, at Emo Court, Ireland. The theme for the festival was ‘roots’. Kanguroots explored the links between Ireland and Australia through my mother’s family links with Ireland and Ned Kelly, in regional Victoria and New South Wales, through the last half of the nineteenth century.
The garden also examined wider cultural associations of migrants with sense of place and place-naming, as a way on retaining a tenuous link with the past, expressed in the ‘signage’ mode of both the nineteenth and late twentieth century, as letter-cut stone slabs, and as graffiti tags.
The garden display fuses the Irish theme of Duchas, or ‘Roots’ with Australia, blending the themes of ancestral culture with the iconic marsupial, playing on the original spelling ‘Kanguroo’, employed by early settlers and (many Irish born) convicts to the British Colonies of New South Wales and Victoria.
The garden links themes of romance, exploration, individual freedom, pastoral life, hardship, dispossession and capital punishment within an Irish-background families’ efforts to develop a pastoral empire in Australia.
Kanguroots is designed as a theatrical space, entered past stage wings, focussing on the primeval spring, backed by plant material from the Jurassic Age – the Wollemi Pine. The effect is the recreation of a hidden hideaway, - Harry Power’s hideaway - where Ned Kelly was taught the finer points of bushranging. It was this secret space that the three policemen travelled to apprehend Ned, which of course culminated in the deaths of Sergeant Kennedy and Constables Lonigan and Scanlon. The spring at the secret campsite at Stringybark Creek was reputed to have never run dry, until the recent 2004-6 drought.
Indigenous Australian foliage is used throughout the display, showcasing the range of form, colour, and texture of the plants of the South Land.
The design moves sequentially from Ireland to Australia, with flights of imaginations back and forth through time evinced by ‘place-naming’.