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Lost Figures

Lost Figures tells the story of Patyegarang and William Dawes.

Patyegarang was a young Aboriginal woman living in the Sydney region when the British invaded in 1788. She played a significant role in early contact between Aboriginal and British people at Tar-Ra.

She was a teacher to William Dawes, an engineer and astronomer. Together in 1790-91 they created what is now considered the first written account of the Sydney Aboriginal language.

Patyegarang’s story only came to light when Dawes’ language notebooks were revealed in London in 1972. Patyegarang is not mentioned in any of the other historical accounts of the First Fleet, so the little we know about her life is based on what can be understood, or inferred, from Dawes’ notebooks.

About the artist

Fintan Magee has painted the models using a bevelled glass effect that obscures the historical figures, presenting them as abstract, forgotten or distant. The work aims to provide an alternative to how historical figures are represented in public art.