Purro Birik - 26

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Purro Birik - (Healthy Spirit)



Design and construction of the mural


Stage 1

Consultation with the Koori community to determine what images would be culturally appropriate to develop as a mural design. How could we create a design, which was immediately recognisable and welcoming to all Aboriginal people? Were there images that would not be appropriate for a semi-public space? What about acknowledging where individual Koori artists had come from? Did this make their images so personal that other people could not collaborate in work on these images? Was it O.K. for non-Aboriginal people to collaborate in the making of these images?


We had also been asked to include a multicultural aspect to the design. This was challenging, but also made it possible to include the work of non-Aboriginal people in the mural without destroying the integrity and personal nature of the totems. After consultation with the Victorian Transcultural Psychiatry Unit, the handprint was chosen as a simple statement of individuality and culture (or both). Participants would be invited to design a personal mosaic handprint and to have say in its placement in the overall design.


The Koori artists at Splash were given a choice of being solely responsible for their individual designs/totems or inviting other people to participate in their construction. Mostly they were happy and proud for the work to be shared.


A major dilemma after consultation with Wurundjeri people was the inclusion of the Rainbow Serpent and the mixing of Wurundjeri and Yorta Yorta totems. In our efforts to make a design meaningful to all Aboriginal people, we had made the serpent integral to the design. Unfortunately, Wurundjeri people did not recognise the Rainbow Serpent; they felt it to be a symbol of evil. After much discussion and soul searching we agreed on a compromise. We would place the two major Wurundjeri totems - Bunjil the Eagle and Wang the Crow, prominently at the top of the design; the Rainbow Serpent would remain, although we would try to make it less of a feature. It was conceded that ultimately the mural and process were about healing and spiritual and emotional support. Perhaps this was more important than adhering to the rules.


Stage 1 was a process of much revision as various people were consulted. Finally, everyone was happy with the result and we were ready to proceed with construction. It was heartening to hear comments on the completion of the mural, that Koori people did find the design meaningful and that they were proud of it. Also that it was obvious that it wasn't traditional and that this was inclusive and worked well.



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