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Corroboree at Newcastlec 1818

by Joseph Lycett

This is the first-known oil painting to depict a night corroboree. It features Awabakal men at Newcastle. Their campfire ceremonies are performed on the banks of the Hunter River surrounded by casuarinas and mangroves, with distant Nobbys Island (now Nobbys Head) and the signal station shown lit by the full moon.

A spectacular and unusual subject for the artist to tackle, this work strongly evokes an atmosphere of mystery and ceremony. It is thought that Lycett must have been trusted by Aboriginal people as his depictions of their culture suggest firsthand observation. However, this painting conflates ceremonies that never would have been performed in public — Lycett has brought them all together to increase the drama of his painting.