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'BLOOD MONEY' Artwork Money Exchange brings light to Australia's dark history

Joseph Guenzler -

David Unaipon, well-known writer and inventor, is no longer the only Indigenous person to appear on an Australian banknote.

The 'Blood Money Exchange Terminal' is Marri Ngarr man Ryan Presley's latest installation on display at Queensland Gallery of Modern Art.

Mimicking a real currency exchange booth, the artwork is staffed by First Nations people and it invites gallery visitors to purchase Blood Money Dollars (BMD) with Australian currency.

In return, participants receive notes featuring watercolours depicting Aboriginal freedom fighters, innovators and artists.

Ryan Presley and two patrons outside of the 'Blood Money Exchange Terminal' Photo by Joseph Guenzler

Watch Ryan's full interview with the National Indigenous Times here

"It works as a play on the art industry as well. The way the art market functions, democratising that in a way" Presley said.

The artwork reallocates the cash raised directly to organisations that empower and educate Indigneous people.

"All the money that is transferred and traded in is distributed between Southside Education, Sisters Inside and the Murri School."

Reworking numerous pieces that he created over 12 years, Presley redesigned the $10, $20, $50 and $100 banknotes to depict eight different First Nation freedom fighters on each side the notes.

These include:

$10 Banknote

Vincent Lingiari AM (1919-1988)

Oodgeroo Noonuccal (1920-1993)

$20 Banknote

Jandamarra (1873-1897)

Woloa (1800-1831)

$50 Banknote

Pemulwuy (1750-1802)

Fanny Balbuk (1840-1907)

$100 Banknote

Dundalli (c.1820-1855)

Gladys Tybingoompa (1946-2006)

"Blood money, used to refer to a payment of compensation for muder in European culture

"So I was interested in the idea of reparations. Looking at Australian money in particular, it's money that derives it's value from colonial occupation and extraction.

"So it's money made from our blood," Presley said.

Presley noted he aimed to create parrallells when designing the blood money notes.

He uses the example of Mary Reibly on the $20 note and how she was opulently wealthy through owning ships and ports.

In contrast, Presley features Woloa, young reistance fighter who was abduscted by whalers in exchange for flour and dogs. She learned English from her captors, sucessfully escaped the ship and followed by leading raids on colonial settlements.

The artwork brings attention to Australia's dark history and how vast amounts of wealth have been dervied through dispossesion and murder.

The Blood Money Currency Exchange Terminal is open daily from 10.00am - 2.00pm at the Queensland Art Gallery from 1 Dec 2022 – 22 Jan 2023 (excluding Christmas Day and Boxing Day).

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