Purro Birik - (Healthy Spirit)
Stage 2 comprised a number
of processes, which involved the Koori participants at Splash Art Studio.
Measuring the space, choosing tiles, scaling up the design, deciding where
to begin, who would do what. As individual (mosaic) totems would be quite
discrete from the painted background and were mostly completed one at a
time, each piece became an event and a story unto itself. ~(The unity of the
total design was less relevant at this stage). Individuals showed much
commitment and ownership of totems as they grew towards completion. Due to
the large scale of some totems, construction had to proceed in segments.
There was much excitement when the.jigsaw of pieces could be assembled and
viewed as a whole.
Weekly workshops at St.
Vincent's Hospital Mental Health Service for a period of approximately six
months. Flyers were posted on notice boards along with colour copies of the
design and explanations of its intention and origins. Patients were invited
to participate at a level that was comfortable for them. It was fine for
people to sit and observe or to be fully involved in the physical work of
chipping tiles and assembling the mosaics. The Koori artists from Splash
came each week to lend their support. It was a busy and industrious stage of
the project. A strong work ethic developed, along with a commitment to
completing the mural and doing it well. A defining moment was the day we
laid completed totems on the grass and photographed them. There was much
excitement, and perhaps for the first time, a sense of what the whole mural
might look like. Much positive comment was received from staff and patients.
There was a lovely sense of community and sharing. People were genuinely
moved to ask questions about Koori culture ~nd to offer their support for
the transformation of the site and what it might mean to Aboriginal people.
The Koori artists at Splash
who participated in the design were Yorta Yorta people who were familiar
with their clan totems and already used them confidently within their art
practice at the studio. However, the traditional custodians of the mural
site were Wurundjeri people. This raised some issues about also
acknowledging Wurundjeri people. Could we (and should we) combine totems of
both? In addition, one of the designing artists at Splash had created
personal totems and symbols. How would they sit within a design which was
largely traditional and totemic? What would we be communicating? (And to
The design and making of
mosaic handprints or footprints by individuals also proved to be pivotal to
the success of this stage of the project. A handsized mosaic was manageable,
simple and very personal. It was also possible for people with a higher
level of skill to produce something which was quite complex and fine. People
were asked to make a handprint in paint on paper and to fill this space in
way, which expressed something meaningful to them. This could include
references to their cultural background if they wished. About 30 handprints
were completed in all. This included contributions from both patients and
staff. We tried to incorporate handprints from anyone who was willing and
had an association with the project in some way.