Mikala Dwyer’s Lamp For Mary Is A Beacon Of Hope For All Women
In a laneway off Bourke Street in Surry Hills, a pink lamp glows brightly. It is a beacon of hope for women and queer people threatened by homophobic violence.
The Lamp For Mary was created in 2010 and installed in 2011 as a response to the brutal attack of a lesbian woman in the laneway in 1996.
Mary was beaten, raped, and left for dead by two men.
She later found out that people in nearby buildings had seen and heard the attack but did not call the police.
Thankfully Mary survived, but as you can imagine, she was severely traumatised.
The attack on Mary shocked and outraged the community. In response, the South City Council and the Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project launched a campaign to reclaim the laneway where the attack took place.
As part of the project, a new artwork simply titled, Lamp For Mary, was commissioned by The City Of Sydney from local artist Mikala Dwyer.
Dwyer's artwork is a way of reclaiming the laneway for women and queer people. The pink lamp is a symbol of hope and resilience. Dwyer says she hoped the lamp would act as both a memorial to victims of violence via its “pink eternal flame” and serve to illuminate the dark lane to make the zone protective of its community.
Complementing the lamp itself is a passage of text on the walls. Written by poet Professor Michael Taussig the text reads, “This is a lane with a name and a lamp in memory of the woman who survived being beaten and raped here. She happened to be lesbian. When the sun sets this lamp keeps vigil along with you who read this in silent meditation.”
Upon completion, the Lamp For Mary became the first place in Sydney dedicated to the display of a community’s commitment to ending homophobic violence. Since then, it has become a popular spot for people to visit and reflect. Now it is a place where people come to remember Mary and celebrate the strength and resilience of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Lamp For Mary is a powerful reminder that violence against women and queer people is unacceptable. It also reminds us that we can all work together to create a safer world.
About Mikala Dwyer
Mikala Dwyer is a Sydney-based artist who works with a variety of mediums, including sculpture, installation, and video. Her work often explores themes of gender, sexuality, and violence.
Dwyer has exhibited her work extensively throughout Australia and internationally. She has won numerous awards, including the Blake Prize for Religious Art and the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize.
The Lamp For Mary is located in Mary’s Place, Surry Hills (Between Bourke St & Floods Place)
To learn more about Mikala Dwyer and her work, visit her website at www.mikaladwyer.com.au
By Jamie Apps