The First Supper, acrylic painting on panel by artist Susan Dorothea White
Susan Dorothea White
The First Supper, 1988
acrylic on panel, 120 x 240 cm (48" x 96") click for detail

I was inspired to paint The First Supper after Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, by the narrative drama and magnificent composition of Leonardo's painting. I wanted to challenge the patriarchal concept of thirteen men on one side of a table that is accepted as a celebrated religious symbol. In place of the men, all with similar features, I painted an international group of women.

The significance of the Australian bicentennial in 1988 influenced my painting. There were conflicting attitudes towards this 200th anniversary of the arrival of the first settlers in Australia. Although many celebrated the bicentennial, Aboriginal people and their supporters saw it as a commemoration of a white invasion.

In place of the central Christ figure is an Aboriginal woman wearing a T-shirt bearing the Aboriginal flag. The other women represent people living in Australia today from different parts of the world. Foods originating from different regions of the world are positioned on the table, in relation to the women. The figure in the position of Leonardo's Judas, is a blonde holding an Aboriginal dilly-bag in place of the money-purse - she has a can of Coca-Cola and a hamburger, while the rest each have a glass of water and a bread roll.

The large rock through the left window is an important sacred site for Aboriginal people, called Uluru; it was returned to them recently as freehold land by the Australian Government.

Susan D White

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