Purro Birik - 27

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Purro Birik - (Healthy Spirit)



Stage 2

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.


Stage 3

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 whom?).


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.



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