A one-woman show by Sandy Greenwood, Matriarch is an intergenerational saga about the power and beauty of traditions, and the violence that can shatter them in a moment.
As well as telling her own story, Greenwood plays her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother at various points in their lives. She teases out the details and the key moments that shaped four generations of Gumbaynggirr women. She has a great deal of affection for these family members and inhabits each role as only someone who has heard these stories countless times can.
As she describes their lives, inhabiting the voice and mannerisms of each, their photographs are projected behind her. It’s a reminder that at times the harrowing episodes she describes are not only stories – they are a part of her cultural heritage.
Greenwood’s mother and her thirteen siblings were part of the Stolen Generation. As well as rejoicing in the culture her ancestors gifted her, she explores the intergenerational trauma she carries within herself.
She acknowledges the privilege of her own white skin. A privilege not afforded to her Gumbaynggirr ancestors, as well as the guilt that this brings. But this inner conflict is touched on only briefly. While these stories have power and importance, a diffuse approach to the delivery of the vignettes loses some of their impact.