Megan Cope (b.1982, Brisbane) is a Quandamooka woman and artist who is currently living and working between both Minjerriba and Melbourne. Through diverse mediums Megan Cope’s dynamic art practice investigates the relationship between place and environment, geography, history, contested sites, identities and power.
The Black Napoleon is a recent body of work created by Cope in response to an artist residency in France, undertaken by the artist as part of the Australian Print Workshop (APW) program ‘French Connections’. Cope’s residency in Paris allowed her the opportunity to research and explore important public archives and collections of cultural and other material relating to early exploration of Australia and the Pacific. The research had a particular emphasis on the interplay of natural history, the history of science, colonisation, empire, art and anthropology. The use of the print medium and its relationship to the era of exploration and enlightenment was another important research area, as well as the historical practice of the print as a medium to record journeys of exploration and discovery. This was a colonial process of documenting the ‘other’: of foreign landscapes; other cultures and cultural material; and exotic natural history including plants, fish, insects, birds and animals.
In her series, Cope reflects on the story of the Aboriginal leader ‘Eulope’ from Moreton Bay, who led the Quandamooka people in their resistance battles against British forces. Called the ‘Black Napoleon’ by the colony for his apparent resemblance to Napoleon Bonaparte, his story resonated with Megan Cope as one of the many powerful and clever Aboriginal leaders defying the Empire at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries throughout Australia.
While it's currently impossible to enjoy Megan's work in situ at the Gallery, you can visit the online presentation of her print and installation works on the Mosman Art Gallery's website.