Hanna Kay: Undertow | An MRAG Touring Exhibition

Hanna Kay, Undercurrent, 2008, oil and tempura on linen, 180 x 350 cm
Hanna Kay, Undercurrent, 2008, oil and tempura on linen, 180 x 350 cm

Undertow is an exhibition created by Hanna Kay who was commissioned to produce a series of paintings influenced and informed by the Jewish Cemetery in Maitland; one of only two ‘stand alone’ Jewish Cemeteries in regional NSW. Along with the cemetery itself, the exhibition and accompanying publication tells the story of the people buried there as a way to re-tell the story of the Jewish community in colonial Maitland.

Hanna Kay was commissioned to create this exhibition because her evocative style of painting figurative images of land and the influence of nature made her and ideal choice. Kay also understands the fabric of the Jewish faith and she often travels past the Maitland Jewish cemetery on her weekly trips to teach Hebrew at the University of Sydney.

As stated by the Migration Heritage Centre NSW,

‘…Australia’s history of migration can be understood in the context of world history and British colonial and Australian Federal Government policies. All people in Australia share the legacy of migration. Unless we are Aboriginal people, we are all migrants or descendants of migrants…’

For the exhibition Undertow MRAG has adopted the philosophy of the Migration Heritage Centre NSW in which a more representative heritage is preserved for future generations that aims to validate migrants’ experiences, both contemporary and from our recent past, and as a result challenges myths and prejudices.

Historian and academic Janis Wilton OAM also contributed to the exhibition with a historical study that flanks the exhibition Undertow. Wilson researched the stories of the people buried at the cemetery and the stories of the place itself; the people buried there, the communities from which they came, the lives they led and their place in Maitland’s history; the book Maitland Jewish Cemetery; a monument to dreams and deeds will be available with the exhibition.

This exhibition was part of an MRAG project entitled Maitland Jewish Cemetery and was the winner of the 2011 National Trust Heritage Awards, Category I: Interpretation and Presentation 1: Corporate/Government. Click here to find out more about this award winning project.

Hanna Kay Touring Information

Hanna Kay Education Kit (PDF)


  • 2011, National Trust of Australia (NSW) Heritage Awards – WINNER. Interpretation and Presentation, Corporate/Government, Maitland Jewish Cemetery.