While it’s a well-known fact St Kilda was named after a schooner, Lady of St Kilda, two local artists have dug deeper, travelling to St Kilda, Scotland, an isolated archipelago located in the mid-Atlantic to uncover the compelling links between the two St Kilda’s.
In January 2018, David Downie and Libby Niven set off on the first of their visits to the Outer Hebrides to live for five weeks in an isolated cottage with their cameras, hoping to capture the beauty of St Kilda’s rugged coastline.
Journeying twice to the St Kilda archipelago, they stumbled across information about the 1852 migration from St Kilda to Port Phillip, which saw a third of St Kilda’s inhabitants leave the island, ultimately resulting at the end of the remote community. Those who emigrated didn’t fare much better, with half of the people on board dying before they reached Port Phillip. The surviving passengers who landed at Port Phillip established themselves from St Kilda to Mordialloc.
The resulting exhibition, From St Kilda to St Kilda showcases photographic reproductions on a variety of media, giving viewers an evocative impression of the Outer Hebrides, a land which is the antithesis of Melbourne, by way of water, low light, wind and sudden extreme changes in weather.
Mayor Dick Gross said the exhibition was a fantastic opportunity for residents to gain an insight into St Kilda, but not as they know it.
“David and Libby’s adventurous and inquisitive nature has resulted in a beautiful exhibition showcasing the original St Kilda to our community. The link between the two St Kilda’s is almost unbelievable, especially the migration from St Kilda to St Kilda,” Cr Gross said.
Downie and Niven’s expeditions ignited a fascination with the stories, legends, and history of St Kilda (Scotland), which has inspired them to share with their community.
“It’s amazing that so few people are aware of this link to St Kilda. We were familiar with the story of the islands being evacuated in 1930, but we had no idea about the migration to Port Phillip in 1852 and the devastating impact on their community,” said Libby Niven.
The exhibition features approximately 80 images from the Outer Hebrides. From St Kilda to St Kilda can be viewed at the Carlisle Street Arts Space from Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 5 pm, except Thursdays 8.30 am to 7 pm, from 18 September to 16 October 2019. Entry is free.