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Public art to be installed at wonguim wilam

WORKS WILL soon commence in wonguim wilam as Manningham Council prepares to install a gathering circle and an entrance sculpture between now and December 2023.
Council says when people visit a significant site, such as wonguim wilam on the Birrarung (Yarra River) in Warrandyte, they will apply their own meaning to the place, depending on their memories and experiences.
The beauty of public art is that it provides a prompt and opportunity for people to take in histories and reflect on how those stories intersect with their own.
This creates shared meaning and new connections to place.
The work comprises two parts that strongly embrace the themes of culture, community, and country, and Council has commissioned Simone Thomson, a prominent Melbourne-based fine artist, muralist and creative, and a Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung and Yorta-Yorta Traditional Owner through her mother.
Simone said her art is inspired by her “spiritual connection to Country and the rich colours and textures of the earth and sky”.
Manningham Mayor, Cr Deirdre Diamante, touched on the significance of stories to public art.

“When it comes to public art, it’s so important that we consider the works’ appearance within the context of what inspired it and the story it is telling.
“Through the Gathering Circle, Simone is extending to the whole community an open invitation to come together, connect and reflect on the incredible cultural significance of Warrandyte.
“This art is also functional and immersive, providing a special place for residents and visitors to do just that.
“The entrance sculpture which will welcome people to this special place represents a boomerang, which ties in beautifully with our place name, wonguim wilam or boomerang place,” she said.

Manningham Council conducted the commission in consultation with Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation.
It will be the first permanent public artwork delivered as part of Manningham Council’s Public Art Policy.
Simone said:

“In the Aboriginal way, the Gathering Circle or meeting place is a place where community comes to connect with one another, to sit down and discuss cultural business and family matters and to learn and share stories.
“This is how our oral history has been passed on for thousands of generations — by facing one another with respect and hearing our songlines and men’s and women’s business from our Elders, our knowledge holders and leaders who are our teachers.”

Simone added that the gathering circle would represent the importance of community and the preservation of cultural practices significant to the oldest continuous culture on Earth.
“It will be a place of reflection on country and offer a peaceful connection to the lands and waterways in which it sits along the beautiful Birrarung, the river of mist and shadows.”
Stage 1 of the works will be the installation of the gathering circle.
The gathering circle takes advantage of sightline across to the Birrarung and will be three metres in diameter to invite the community to come together.
Edged by stone seating, the gathering circle is organic in form and features Simone’s intricate design in stone and paint, mirroring the natural palette of the surrounding environment and reflecting on themes of country, culture, and community.
Works will include:

  • The designed gathering circle will be paved and approximately three metres in diameter.
  • It will have stone boulder seats around the edge of the circle and incorporate Aboriginal symbols to reference people gathering around the meeting place representing the Warrandyte community.
  • The colours will be neutral and ochre-toned pebbles, rust-red oxide mortar mix, patterned concrete and random stone slate mosaic to fit harmoniously with the natural environment and tones of the site.

Stage 1 is expected to be completed by September.
Stage 2 will be the installation of a sculpture situated at the park entrance and standing tall from hand-carved cedar pine; the boomerang sculpture will welcome all visitors to wonguim wilam while also acting as an invitation to return as visitors depart.
Works will include:

  • The horizontal boomerang sculpture will be 4.9m wide x 2.95m high, laminated and carved from cypress pine timber.
  • It will be positioned at the entry of the parking area, amongst vegetation with high visibility from Yarra Street.
  • The carved design will be painted and stained in the grooves to create contrast against the stained timber.
  • The artwork will complement the natural surroundings.

Works on Stage 2 are expected to take place between September and December.
Manningham Council notes the specifications are subject to change as the public artwork will evolve to suit the landscape and the artist’s vision.