Swaggie (2013)

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John Webb: Swaggie (2013)

Swaggie (2013)
.98 x 1.5m

Image details:

John Webb: Swaggie (2013) Detail 1

John Webb: Swaggie (2013) Detail 2

John Webb: Swaggie (Detail 3)
Swaggie (2013)
(Detail 1) 
Swaggie (2013)
(Detail 2) 
Swaggie (2013)
(Detail 3)  


This work:

This work speaks to the solitary state of the wandering swaggie. 

But here the landowner (whip in hand) and his overseer stand in the background. These figures can be read as commentary on the economic circumstances which gave rise to the impoverished, homeless (and usually wifeless) swaggie, whose passage criss-crossed this land for many decades. The itinerant life of the swaggie was not necessarily a voluntary or joyful walk-about.

Australian context:

The swaggie is an iconic Aussie figure.

Swagman c1901 

Swagman boiling his billy


 'Elderly Swagman', c1901
Source: Government Printer (via Wikipedia)
 Swagman boiling the billy
Source: Culture Victoria

Often romanticised, the swagman is famously referred to in the song "Waltzing Matilda", by Banjo Paterson, which tells of a swagman who turns to stealing a sheep from the local squatter.

The song begins:

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled:
"Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?"

Read more about this iconic song here:  

In turn, that song has been used as the riff (or refrain) in several more modern iconic songs; notably:
The original Waltzing Matilda is thought to be based on a real incident which took place (in the 1890s) at the Combo Waterhole (billabong) at Kynuna in Queensland. (Wikipedia)