Grigoryans respond to 18 NMA objects
Stolen: A response to the Kinchela Boys Home gate, ABC Classic, 8 March 2021
Slava and Leonard Grigoryan’s Stolen is a musical response to the Kinchela Boys Home gate, which is housed in the collection of the National Museum of Australia.
Object: Kinchela Boys Home gate
This gate was one of a pair that formed the front gates of the Kinchela Aboriginal Boys Training Home in Kempsey, New South Wales. Established by the Aboriginal Protection Board in 1924, the Home housed boys aged five to 15 who had been removed from their families under the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Act. These boys are now recognised as members of the Stolen Generations.
More than 400 boys experienced life at Kinchela until it closed in 1970. During its operation, the institution was the subject of positive news stories in local and national media. The reality, however, was quite different. Reports from private researchers and government officials describe the brutal treatment and teaching practices and the terrible living conditions suffered by its residents over five decades.
The gates were discarded and replaced in about 1950. In the late 1990s, this section of the gate was found by the Macleay River in Kempsey. Now part of the Museum’s collection, the gate represents the stories of the Kinchela boys and of the Stolen Generations more broadly.
— Curator, National Museum of Australia
Inspired by the story of the Kinchela Aboriginal Boys Training Home, this work is one of the saddest and most heartbreaking compositions in the suite. It is made up of three sections.
The first presents a mournful and dramatic moment representing the passing of time and looking back.
The second, a solo played by Slava, is a poignant cry directly tackling the traumatic history associated with the gate.
The third has more movement and is the most optimistic of the three sections. It envisages the community of boys gathering years later and sharing their stories.
As a whole, the work grapples with survival, resilience and optimism.
— Slava and Leonard Grigoryan
To mark the 20th anniversary of the National Museum of Australia, Slava and Leonard Grigoryan have selected 18 objects from the museum collection and responded to each with a new composition. The objects trace the history of Australia over the past 60,000 years.
The Grigoryan’s full album This Is Us: A Musical Reflection of Australia is available to buy and stream through ABC Classic.