Tom Nicholson

Nardoo flag-wave
2009 - 2010

Monument for the flooding of Royal Park is an elaboration of the artist's book of the same title into the form of a 15 metre frieze. The work describes a proposed monument, which focuses on nardoo, the plant which the 19th-century Australian explorers Burke and Wills furiously consumed during their final days around Cooper’s Creek. The Yantruwanta people had introduced the explorers to the habit of making cakes from nardoo sporocarp, who failed to observe the correct preparation of the seed, mainly due to Burke’s antipathy towards Aboriginal culture and his hostility towards any reliance upon it. Without roasting, the sporocarp contains high levels of thiaminase, which disables human digestion by destroying Thiamine, ultimately resulting in apoptosis, the self-programmed death of cells in the body. Burke and Wills both starved even as they spent most of their final days preparing and consuming copious quantities of nardoo cakes.