A summer on lunawuni/Bruny Island, imagining the decimation/dissemination of Captain Bligh’s colonial garden

My practice is ongoingly concerned with the species histories I encounter in the field and in the archive, and how I can create artworks that critically narrate the knotted human histories carried by these species. My partner and I spent this last summer creating and tendering for a new garden on lunawuni/Bruny Island. We spent the days fighting back weeks and planting native grasses, and each evening watching marsupials and microbats entering the garden followed by wrens, sillvereyes and finches the following morning. In 1788, Captain Bligh planted fruit trees and a kitchen garden in Adventure Bay, considered by many historians as the first colonial garden in Australia. There is nothing left of the ‘four apple trees and citrus and cherry seed’ or the ‘cabbage, onion and potato’. Observing the amount of wildlife present today, I can only Imagine the quick decimation of these crops, but I question the absolute absence of their trace. Seed carried by these same species I observed each day, could have landed anywhere on lunawuni/Bruny and still be present today. I am interested in my viewer thinking of ‘history painting’ by studying the material history of my own painting. Each layer of reference, contrary perspectives, styles and gestures, complicates the temporality of the scene. Pattern functions like a portal through time and site, I invite you to think and look through trees that were witness to this kitchen garden and still stand today. The species that enter the new garden are spreading native grass seed as much as introduced weed, and we are toiling the small parcel of land conscious of the colonial weight of our labour. Like all our human gestures, the making of a veggie patch on this island carries a colonial legacy.

Fernando do Campo


Acrylic on canvas