HOMILY TO COUNTRY, RIVER DARLING (BAAKA)
HOMILY TO COUNTRY, RIVER DARLING (BAAKA), AUSTRALIA, 2020
Homily to Country draws attention to the ecological decline of the Darling River (Baaka), Australia’s third longest river, caused by intensive water extraction due to irrigation, climate change and drought.
Homily to Country is a continuation of the Omelia Contadina project, initiated in Italy in 2019 by JR and Alice Rohrwacher, which highlights farmers facing the same issues: protect their environment and live decently from their work.
In Australia, the project began with a research trip to the Darling River (Baaka) region in early 2020. JR met orchardists who had been forced to remove and burn their families’ commercial orchards due to lack of irrigation flows, and a senior Baakandji Elder and spokesperson for the Darling River (Baaka). For the Baakandji, the health of the river is inextricably and directly related to the health of their culture. Not only does the river offer food, fibre and shelter, but also a central proposition around which to structure culture. In 2020 large sections of the river ran dry, endangering the surrounding ecosystem.
On 27 February 2021, a procession was held at Lake Cawndilla, near Menindee, Australia, to raise awareness about the decline of the Darling River (Baaka) ecosystem. As was the case for the Omelia Contadina processions in Venice and San Gimignano, portraits of members of the impacted communities were printed on 30-metre long tarpaulins and carried through the desolated landscape.
As part of NGV Triennial (Melbourne), JR presents "Homily to Country, 2020", a monumental work resulting from the project. Conceived as an outdoor chapel, it consists of a scaffold structure and a printed façade, on which five stained glass windows are nestled. Each of the windows presents portraits of the Elder of the Baakandji and the farmers JR met.