community, zanny begg, acta, cultural grants, wollongong

An interactive video honouring thousands of forgotten souls buried at Waterfall is being produced as a way for Australians to heal and move through “current anxieties with COVID-19”. Award-winning visual artist from Bulli, Zanny Begg, has family ties to the derelict Garrawarra Cemetery (also known as Waterfall General) and was shocked when visiting the site before the pandemic hit. Her partner’s great-grandfather was one of 2000 tuberculosis patients buried there, after dying at the nearby Waterfall Sanatorium (now Garrawarra Centre for Aged Care). Read more: The forgotten souls of Garrawarra Cemetery “Bernard Patrick Murray was a child of Irish migrants, he was quite poor, didn’t have a lot of social resources behind him and when he got sick he kind of got herded into this environment and died alone,” Ms Begg said. “For my partner’s family, time has gone in a loop in a way. We are in a similar situation, dealing with that fear and the isolation and the lockdown.” The touch-screen project, titled Magic Mountains, has been commissioned for the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne, which will be accessible from their website once launched on October 28. The artist said it has been an emotional project uncovering Bernard’s story, and interviewing his son Frank Nicholson (her partner’s grandfather) who last saw his dad when he was eight. “He was my daughter’s age when his father was taken away,” Ms Begg said. “He couldn’t even say goodbye. For me, I really felt for these people [in isolation due to COVID-19] who are having these lonely deaths because their loved ones can’t come to them.” Her research found many patients didn’t have a choice if they were sent to the sanatorium, describing it as “a hard lockdown” in the bush because they would be too sick to escape. Read more: Restored 160-year-old painting of Figtree unveiled Ms Begg said she wanted to find Bernard’s resting place but acknowledged it’d be tough, given only the “wealthy” patients were given headstones though many received just a single, wooden peg. The video project was chosen to receive a grant from the Illawarra arts collective Culture Bank because of the potential for it to be “extraordinary”. “It is a very powerful place,” spokeswoman Tania Mastroianni said. “[Garrawarra Cemetary is] mysterious, haunting, almost whispering messages from the past – bridging generations, connecting us to what it is to be human. “We also loved the idea that Magic Mountains was proposing to use a crew of locals as dancers, choreographers, singers, performers, interviewees and musicians”. Information on grants and how to become a member of Culture Bank can be found at: We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.