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Mentone Lifesaving Club - Public Art Project

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Image: Mentone Lifesaving Club Redevelopment and Precinct, 3D renderings

 

Kingston Arts has partnered with Indigenous artists Aunty Kim Wandin and Amanda Wright to deliver the new public artwork at the Mentone Lifesaving Club.

This public artwork will be integrated into the new Lifesaving club which is currently being built and scheduled for completion in mid-2022. City of Kingston will inform the Bunurong Land Council, key stakeholders, Council officers and local community members on this exciting and multifaceted project. 

This project is proudly supported by the City of Kingston with funding from the Victorian Government.

 meet THE ARTISTS

Aunty Kim Wandin is a Wurundjeri Woirurrung woman living in Healesville in the Yarra Valley. Her traditional name is Wandoon which means ‘spirits of the water’. Aunty Kim is a basket and eel trap maker collecting reeds and other fibre plants on Country. The art of using reeds to make eel traps and baskets is a tradition handed down to her by her Nana Ollie who was taught by Granny Jemima at Coranderrk. Aunty Kim has worked as a Consultant and Cultural Educator, exhibited her work across arts organisations and her art has been acquired by private and state collections.

Palawa artist, Amanda Wright has lived in Boronia for 34 years and contributed to the Yarra Ranges community through many arts-based projects. Amanda has worked on multiple Indigenous murals at schools where she has collaborated with students and teachers to produce artwork to create connections to the environment and Indigenous culture through art. She believes that to learn and understand Indigenous culture and knowledge is not just through books but through spoken language, dance, music and most importantly art.

The artists will collaborate on this project with the support of Curator Christine Joy and Public Art Specialist James Voller (Collide Public Art).

Christine brings design, curation and community engagement expertise to the team. As a specialist in community programs and projects Christine’s prevailing passion is Aboriginal culture and its role in transforming social and environmental ecologies.

Collide is a new public art initiative based in Melbourne. They aim to merge multiple fields and practices with sculpture as they seek to redefine how sculpture can be both socially and architecturally integrated. Collide works with a range of artists on both temporary and permanent public artworks, using the latest digital and architectural technologies. 

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Images: Left: Aunty Kim Wandin, Right: Amanda Wright

What other public art projects have you worked on?

The Design Team have experience across a range of public art projects. Some projects they have worked on individually and collaboratively:

  • Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden, The Royal Botanic Gadens, Victoria
  • Djirra Binak at Ridgewalk Sculpture Trail
  • Design of new civic centre rooms for Yarra Ranges
  • Barrangal Dyara,a language soundscape with Jonathon Jones: major public artwork, Sydney, in association with Kaldor Public Art projects
  • Proximities: Local History, Global Entanglements, a site-specific installation, sound-recording, William Barak Bridge Melbourne, 2006
  • Collide has worked with notable partners such as Mirvac, Billbergia, Citadines and City of Stonnington on public art pieces as well as major Rail Public artworks.
  • Mural, Eastland carpark, with members of Mullum Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place, 2017
  • Public Art, 6 Paintings In Boulders at Badger Creek, Healseville. 2018
  • Murals, Family rooms at Maroondah Hospital, 2018
  • Mural, Doveton Kinder, 2020
  • Mural, Croydon Gums Kinder, 2020

What will the name of the artwork be?

The artwork will be titled Rakali Wilam (Rakali Home or Home of Rakali)

Can you please tell us a bit about the proposed artwork & the story behind it?

The public artwork will feature a pair of playful rakali which will be formed in bronze and will emerge and return to the water. Ripples etched in concentric circles symbolising their eternal connection to place, as a significant entity in Aboriginal culture. Our design 'Rakali' captures the essence of this playful and intelligent animal that is resourceful and an excellent swimmer. To the design team, rakali symbolise playfulness and fun as it emerges from the water to chase its companion. It also represents resilience in face of threat and danger, as well as adaptability as it navigates both fresh and saltwater habitats. The rakali plays a vital role in the local environment as a peak predator stabilising the natural ecological systems.

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Images: Aunty Kim will work with Palawa Artist, Amanda Wright whose sketches of the Rakali that will be incorporated into the design of the sculpture.

 

What is the significance of the Rakali?

The rakali Hydromys chrysogaster which means 'water mouse with golden belly', is a large semi-aquatic rodent living between freshwater and saltwater, linking the two aquatic environments, and symbolising their interconnectivity.

The rakali features in the Wurundjeri creation story about how the platypus was created. In the story, the rakali and duck fell in love and eloped. Their children were born as dulai-wurrung (the platypus).

Over 50 Aboriginal words for the Rakali remain. There would have once been many more. The fact the words remain indicates their importance in Aboriginal culture. This serves as a powerful symbol of Aboriginal resilience and renewal.

The word 'rakali' itself is from Ngarindjeri language which is the land around the Victorian/ South Australia border, including the Coorong.

The presence of the words reflects the ubiquitous nature of the rakali, living in many habitats (marine and freshwater, across the continent, except for the most arid areas), but also their adaptability and resourcefulness.

I’ve never seen a Rakali, what do they look like?

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Image credit: Cecile Van der Burgh and Georg Ramm

 

How does the Rakali live? Eg. lifecycle, food, habitat etc.

As a highly intelligent apex predator, their role in the environment is similar to that of otters, feeding on crabs, shellfish, and other invertebrates. Rakali are one of Australia's largest rodents, characterised by webbed hind feet, white tip on tail, long blunt nose and thick waterproof fur and a tail that acts as a rudder when swimming. This species was heavily hunted for its pelt until protective legislation was introduced. The main threats to the rakali now are habitat alteration, swamp drainage and predation by introduced animals such as cats and foxes. Rakali play a vital ecological role in controlling introduced pests like black rats and in other parts of Australia, cane toads.

Is the Rakali native to Kingston?

Yes, the rakali is local to and protected in the area. Around this area they are marine animals feeding on molluscs and crustaceans. They use rock crevices as their homes.

What will the sculpture look like?

 The sculpture will be a combination of materials in bronze, glass and concrete. The Design Team will work with Wathaurong Glass, an Aboriginal glass company to design the glass elements which will feature Aboriginal iconography depicting rakali footprints and journey lines. Glass will also be used to generate the illusion of water rippling. The bronze rakali will be life-like and life-size presenting the rakali’s interactions with their aquatic environment.  

What materials will the Rakali be made from?

The proposed material is cast bronze. The work will translate the sketches of Rakali into plasticine models which in turn will be cast.

Where will the artwork be located?

This will be determined over the coming weeks, however, it will be located within the surrounds of the Mentone Lifesaving Club Precinct at ground level. 

How will the artwork be lit?

The Design Team will work closely with Council to illuminate the artwork at night.

How long will the artwork last?

The works will be constructed using durable materials which will withstand the impacts of the natural coastal systems in Mentone. The life cycle of the work is 20 years.

Video credit: Rakali plasticine model by Natalia Ryan

PROJECT BACKGROUND

There is ongoing support for the depiction of Indigenous cultural heritage along the Bay by the local Kingston community. During the feedback collected on the ‘Your Kingston Your Say’ platform in July and August of 2020 for artistic themes to be explored along the Bay Trail, ‘Indigenous Cultural Heritage’ featured amongst the most popular topic supported, along with the ‘The local marine life and biodiversity of Port Phillip Bay’.

The City of Kingston is undergoing the Reconciliation Australia process to endorse Council’s first ever Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 2021-2023. An Innovate RAP focuses on developing and strengthening relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, engaging staff and stakeholders in reconciliation, developing and piloting innovative strategies to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Kingston Arts will be guided by the commissioned artist/s on material and application of the proposed design and fabrication, however, the artwork is intended to be permanent and should be inclusive of interpretive signage. The design will also be low lying in nature and not block lines of site for users of the deck or overlooking residents.

If you have any additional questions or want to share any thoughts or feedback, please contact:

Victoria O’Shea
Arts and Cultural Coordinator, Kingston Arts
Phone | 1300 653 356 Email | info@kingston.vic.gov.au