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Defendo explores the painful ironies, survival choices, and cultural intricacies of hidden family heritage within a colonial and personal context. Featuring an intricately embroidered full-scale replica of a WWII aircraft, this major solo exhibition by Amy Perejuan-Capone pays tribute to her late Grandfather’s legacy, and explores a chance discovery about his heritage.

An amazing coincidence opened up an entirely new realm of artistic inquiry for multidisciplinary artist Amy Perejuan-Capone. In a chance encounter, Amy’s cousin discovered that Auntie Jean Boladeras, a Ballardong Noongar Elder, was their great aunt – revealing a lineage that to their knowledge was never discussed by her brother, Amy's late Grandfather, in his lifetime.

For Amy, an artist concerned with negotiating complex personal histories, it was an profound discovery – and one that led to the development of her poignant new exhibition Defendo, which is showing at Old Customs House, Fremantle, from February 10 to March 10 2024. 

“I did some research and discovered that my Grandfather signed up for World War II the minute he turned 18,” Amy explained. “I was intrigued by the fact that he defended Australia in a bloody international war at a time when the movement and rights of Aboriginal people were heavily restricted at home.  He was white-passing and kept his Noongar heritage to himself, which is painful but I have personally accepted as understandable in the context of the violently racist policies of mid-century WA. ” 

Exploring this complex juxtaposition, the exhibition features a full-size aluminium replica of a CAC Wirraway aircraft, which were on the frontline of defence for the Perth region (Noongar Boodja) during WWII and one of the aircraft her Grandfather would have trained with. The aircraft is swathed in tulle embroidered with poison pea flowers, known to be toxic to livestock and introduced pests like foxes but innocuous to native species. 

“I use these flowers because they're symbolic of entities that hold within them this hidden resistance,” Amy explains. “ This pretty and brightly coloured flowering plant is endemic to south-west WA and caused great livestock losses along the colonising droving routes east into Balardong Noongar Boodja. Resistance in a war looks as obvious as aircraft loudly patrolling the skies, but in a colonised place, I think it's a lot more nuanced and often invisible. Resistance flying under the radar."

Also underpinning the project is the recurring subject of aviation in Amy's family, "to me the phenomena of flight symbolises our connection to earth and sky, communication between generations, and the tensions within the human spirit. I worked with my dad to create Defendo, a close collaboration I’ve fostered for several years. It was important to work with family on a project that is about reconnecting with parts of my heritage and repairing broken lineages.”

Text by Rosamund Brennan & Amy Perejuan-Capone

Shown at Artsource Old Customs House, Feb - Mar 2024

Featured in the PERTH FESTIVAL 2024 visual arts program.

Supported by the Minderoo Foundation, City of Melville, and the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries

Very special thanks to Greg Perejuan, Jacobus Capone, and the team at Artsource

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