Moonlighting in Moffatt: Tracking the Kenniff Brothers
Moonlighting in Moffat captures a true story in words and images of two young brothers whose 'business' was picking up cleanskins--until they were charged with murder. In 1903 Australia basked in Federation glory, proclaiming a national identity that celebrated values of egalitarianism and freedom nurtured by hardships of life in the bush. Painters, poets, musicians, and writers contributed a plethora of applause in the social media of the day to erect a memorial to hard-luck heroes in Australian folklore. Now, over a century later, artist-writer, Karen Knight-Mudie, unearths the story of the Kenniff brothers in her exhibition and book, Moonlighting in Moffatt. In a unique conversational way of writing, Karen links past and present in recounting field trips while tracking the story of the Kenniff brothers--her stimulus for images and words. The story tells of the dare-devil exploits of two brothers who chased fame and fortune in the remote Upper Warrego district of western Queensland; who clashed with authority; pinched valuable horses and moonlighted clean skins; gained a reputation as desperadoes and faced the biggest court hearing ever held in Queensland--for murder. Both Paddy and Jimmy Kenniff were sentenced to death. But public opinion exploded in protests, and young Jimmy's verdict was commuted to prison with hard labour for the term of his natural life. As the noose tightened around Paddy's neck in January 1903, he asserted his innocence. Some say the wrong brother was hanged. Karen's work presents facts with unerring truth. The connection of present with past is freshly presented as a pictorial and written chat with history where questions still linger.
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