Wardandi Boodja, sculpture that speaks

Wardandi Boodja, Bunbury Foreshore, Western Australia

In the last couple of years I’ve noticed, along the coast of Western Australia, there has been a focus on making art accessible to the community, and in particular sculpture, one of my favourite art expressions.

I have driven past this sculpture, Wardandi Boodja, on the Bunbury foreshore many times and as many times, photographed it.  There is something very powerful about the sense of ‘connectedness’ this sculpture conveys.

The indigenous culture of Australia is one of the oldest in the world and deeply connected to land and sea.  The indigenous people regard themselves as custodians of the ecosystem.  In all the photographs I have taken, this picture reflects this wisdom in his eyes.  It comes alive when a glint of sunshine, visible only if one is lucky enough to see the light, speaks of this.  The artists Alex and Nicole Mickle consulted with the indigenous people of this region, who decided they wanted the sculpture to represent all families in the face of an elder custodian.  He is not one person, but all.  There is power in this statement, alone.

The sculpture is enormous at 5.5 metres high and weighing 4.2 tonnes of steel, yet it has the lightness of being and, despite being placed alongside a children’s playground, the stillness of silence.  Most of the children who come here to play are too young to read the poem.  And, unfortunately, most adults read their hand held screens these days.  If one lifted one’s gaze they would read what the sculpture speaks to:

Sand and water and time move through our fingers;
damp from the sea, the land clings to us –
salty and healing.
Slow down and listen to that whisper in the trees,
slow down.
Listen to the ancestors, bworan moort, keepers of the land
singing to the silvery kwilena
They leap and call.  Hear them –
they have come to play,
come to listen.
Swim, koolangka, chase the seagulls, laugh in the clean air.
See, where serpent rivers swirl into brine,
where maali dip long necks in living water.
Step gently here.
The earth is under our skin,
and Wardandi boodja keeps a warm fire burning.

NOTE:  Bworan moort: Old people/ancestors; maali: swans; kwilena: dolphins; koolangka: children (original citation found at http://www.brag.org.au)

This is my first contribution to Sculpture Saturday and I’m pleased to share my part of the world with you.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird

In response to Sculpture Saturday – Week 7


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