But One Day Smoke Came & We Were the Survivors: An Account by Janet Inyika

Janet Inyika was an artist who lived in two worlds: thetraditional culture of her Pitjantjatjara family and the hegemonic white Australian culture. She was born at around the same time as the Australian government invited its British counterpart to explode nuclear bombs in outback South Australia.

British nuclear weapon testing in Australia in the 1950s was the expression of a hubristic imperial mindset in step with colonial compliance, stoked by Cold War fear and loathing. Nine atmospheric nuclear explosions were detonated at Emu Field (1953) and Maralinga (1956–57), followed by so-called minor trials until 1963. it was an area selected for its remoteness from cities and towns. The interests of traditional owners of that land had already been formally excluded from the national polity, and they were not granted any recognition within the prospect of top secret weapon trials. The so-called remote area was, of course, not at all remote from Country still occupied by Aboriginal people living either near the test site itself or on the vast swathe of land over which the consequential plumes of wind-blown radioactive dust settled. This impact was presumably assessed to be an affordable collateral damage.


Matt Dickson is a curator, collector, writer, historian and researcher, including for the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia. Works from the Sims Dickson Collection are regularly exhibited across Australia. He’s also a music producer and founder of cult label Spiral Scratch Records, winner of four ARIAs for Best Jazz Album.

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