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Sculptures and brochure launch at Back O’Bourke Centre


Mundaguddah (Brian Smith). Photo contributed

Atrist, Andrew Hull. Photo contributed

Over the last couple of weeks, Bourke residents may have seen several spectacular sculptures popping up around the Back O’Bourke Centre and wondered, what is the story behind them?

Well, wonder no more, because Andrew Hull has come out with a brochure detailing the story behind his sculptures, shedding light on the local people who inspired them.

“The sculptures have officially launched at the Back O’Bourke Centre, so we have a brochure coming out to give people a bit of context behind them,” Hully said.

“This isn’t their final resting place; when the flood waters recede, they will be placed along a path on the river and decorate a walk that visitors and locals can go on and learn about our town.

“Ultimately, there will be signs that go with each sculpture, but because it is only a temporary location right now, we haven’t done all the signage, which is why we have developed a twelve-page brochure that gives the story of the person that the sculptures represent.

“And it will also have a perspective from me, sometimes about the artwork, sometimes about how the story impacted me.

“It will also have a QR code that you can scan on your phone, and a video will pop up that shows the people telling the story in their own words, which makes it a much more immersive experience.

“All of these stories are gifts,” he continued, “given with generosity of heart and spirit, and I’d like to thank all these people for letting me tell their stories.”

The first sculpture in the brochure is called Puldri Thulli, and it tells the story of Jason Dixon.

“I belong to two distinct groups,” Jason said, “the Ngemba is my mother’s tribe, and Wangkumara is my father’s tribe…

“During the time of the policy of assimilation, people were removed from their country to mission settlements in Brewarrina, and that’s what happened to my great grandmother.

“In the 1970s, linguists were documenting many language groups in Bourke. My great-grandmother was one of the confident ones who could speak about her language. She made 62 tapes recording all aspects of the Wangkumara language, including names, flora and fauna. These tapes show that the language is very descriptive and explains what the object or medicine does.

“In English, this object is a shield which is quite a broad term. In the Wangkumara language, this is called Puldri Thulli, which approximates to ‘cover and protect your meat’, meaning protect your body or vital organs.”

Stitch by Stitch is Kristy Kennedy’s sculpture, and it represents her grandmother, who used to share traditional knowledge as she taught people the art of weaving.

“My grandmother Eileen Mackay was a wonderful artist,” Kristy said, “she could paint anything that was put in front of her. She was also a well-respected traditional Aboriginal weaver, and she would teach other people, so she was also an educator.

“She would tell stories while she wove, and we would sit there and listen and learn how to do the practice of weaving, but also, we were taking on the stories of the culture, which was important even if we didn’t know it at the time.

“Weaving is a very special process, and I think about my grandmother every time we do it. The way we learned relates to the phrase ’Stitch by Stitch’ because as you take the reed out through the basket and back towards yourself, you metaphorically stitch the object to yourself. In this way, you invest yourself in the project; it is no longer just a thing but part of you, and you become part of it, stitch by stitch.

“This is a way of understanding traditional approaches to resources and utilising the natural landscape. If you invest yourself in this landscape, you will care for it more deeply; if what you make is a part of you, it means more when you share it, give it away, or use it.”

The sculpture called Paalampaltharu is a tribute to Andrew Hull’s great-great-grandmother, Minnie Kelly, who was taken off her country to the Brewarrina mission in the 1930s.

“This sculpture is made for a woman that we never met,” Andrew said, “though we know strange and intimate details about, and who, amongst others, we owe our existence to.

“Minnie Kelly was born at Kallara Station and was identified as a member of the ‘Gu:Nu’ (Kurnu) tribe… My country starts at Tilpa and Louth down from Bourke on the Darling River. I am a Barkindji, a person of the Barka or river.

“This white flower, known as the Darling River Lily, is endemic to the floodplains of the Darling and belongs to and survives in that soil, as does her story. The two blossoms represent the Warrego and the Darling converging within the traditional lands of the Kurnu-Barkandji.”

The sculpture of Thulii, the sand goanna, represents the totem of Dot Martin’s family and tells their story.


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