Signatures of resistance: graffiti as a form of self-inscription at Thunderbolts Rock, Uralla (NSW)

Katherine Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Thunderbolt’s Rock is a tangible marker of colonial memory celebrating the life of legendary nineteenth century bushranger, Captain Thunderbolt (Frederick Ward). A vantage point for Ward’s renowned coach robberies, the rock evokes the drama of Australia’s pioneering history, consolidating the mythic position of the bushranger in the nation’s foundational narrative. This secular, yet sacralised, settler memorial has, over the past fifty years, been desecrated with vibrantly coloured graffiti. In this paper, I investigate the interaction between the historical mediation of Thunderbolt’s Rock as a mnemonic site of colonial mythology and the symbols and letters that now saturate the rock’s surface. Applying a Foucauldian conception of resistance, the graffiti is analysed as a playful, anarchic protest against hegemonic orderings of history and of place. The writings and symbols scrawled across the granite rock face are a form of dialectical collaboration with a colonial myth positioning the boulder as a significant site for the reworking of Australia’s postcolonial identity. Through processes of desecration and defacement, the legend of the ‘noble outlaw’ has been re-animated, awakening multiple versions of history immanent in the rock, and enriching the mythic tales of ‘Thunderbolt Country’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalNEO : journal for higher degree research students in the social sciences and humanities
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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