The My Little Sunshine team respectfully acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands upon which we work and live, and the rich diverse Indigenous cultures across Australia. For over 60,000 years, Indigenous arts and culture have thrived on this sacred land, and we honour the Elders and Cultural Leaders past and present.
Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islanders viewers and the general audience of this project should consider caution when engaging with the work on this website as it contains images or voices of people who have died.
Grief and the anticipated grief from the death or possible death of a child is the main topic of My Little Sunshine.
The five stages of grief have long been understood. The sequential order of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance were introduced by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist, as early as 1969. Her writing was one of the early contemporary explorations about death and personal loss that took on a cult status in the western world. While the linear structure of these stages was stressed by the author during its inception, her work was more phenomenal in the sense that it prompted a changing western society - one that was starting to seek a divorce from its dependency on religion, to question the psycho-spiritual assumptions about life and the beyond. Kubler-Ross pushed us to acknowledge grief.
Yet as someone who rode the hero status of understanding the inner workings of death and its effect on humans, when she entered the stages of dying, it became apparent that grief failed to follow a methodical process or a linear path. Even as Kubler-Ross revised her own theories, she left behind a society that was still infatuated with her formulaic understanding of grief.
Did it fill a void? Did it impart a general acceptance of death and grief in our society? I’m not sure. I believe that the modern western society, in its many multi-cultural shapes and forms, has a complicated relationship with grief. We expect grief to follow a neatly packaged set of emotions and cognitive processes. We judge deviations and ridicule outward displays of emotionality. We accept eulogies, but reward resilience. Even our language, at times, fails us.
But what if it wasn’t so simple?
The purpose of My Little Sunshine is found here. In normalizing a conversation about grief and death – in creating a space where grief is welcome, where it could be resolved or remain unresolved, to talk about it or acknowledge it for the first time or even to just let it soak in. It is intended to derail the linear pathway we have been prescribed and to explore the lifelong tangle that grief can produce.
My Little Sunshine is made possible by the support from the families featured in it. The collaboration with Hummingbird House was essential in telling this story. An incredible team of artists - Aleea Monsour, Alex Drabsch, Jessica Forbes, Hine Kahukura, Matt Hsu, Anna Whitaker, Kinly Grey, Alana Holmberg, the team at KEPK gallery in Brisbane, accepted the vision for the project and helped fulfil its many iterations.
A physical exhibition was held from 22 May – 11 June 2022 at KEPK gallery in Yeerongapilly, Brisbane. We also conducted three successful events, including two panel discussions to accompany this characterisation of grief. This website is a virtual representation of this work.
Funding from Arts Queensland and the Whickers Foundation provided the resources to put this together. There are many more who are not named here but believed in its purpose and continue to play a big part.