A Sorrowful Act: The Wreck of the Zeewijk

A Sorrowful Act: The Wreck of the Zeewijk

This new project by Victorian-based artist, lawyer and academic Dr Drew Pettifer explores shared Dutch-Australian LGBTQ+ cultural heritage.

Unearthing shared difficult histories 

A Sorrowful Act: The Wreck of the Zeewijk’ derives from a broader investigation within Drew Pettifer's work to unearth hidden queer histories through archival art practices. The project takes the form of an exhibition and a publication, each of which focuses on the first recorded moment in (European) queer history on Australian soil: a sodomy trial following the wreck of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) ship the Zeewijk in 1727, where two young men were sentenced to death by marooning. The trial is recounted in detail in the journals of the Zeewijk, which Pettifer researched at the National Archives of the Netherlands in the Hague and the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam.  

Immersive gallery experience 

The resultant project uses photographs, video, audio and installation in an immersive gallery experience that asks us to think about how our understanding of history informs the present and influences our future. The exhibition opens 28 August 2020 at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery at the University of Western Australia and runs until 5 December 2020. 

Publication and symposium 

The publication that derives from this same project will launch in November 2020 at the University of Western Australia alongside a symposium on the themes of the project. The publication includes research material, artworks and exhibition installation images alongside a series of essays creating the most in depth analysis of this event to date. Writers include: Diederick Wildeman, Curator, National Maritime Museum, Amsterdam; the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, former justice of the High Court of Australia; Professor Dennis Altman AO, LGBTQ+ historian and activist; and, Corioli Souter, Curator of Maritime Archeology, Museums Western Australia. 


‘A Sorrowful Act: The Wreck of the Zeewijk’ is curated by Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery Director, Professor Ted Snell CitWA. It has been supported by Perth Institute for Contemporary Arts, Australia Council for the Arts, Embassy of the Netherlands in Canberra, RMIT University and the City of Melbourne.