Land and art align to celebrate Djilang
A stunning artistic collaboration between the Wadawurrung people and developer Villawood Properties will highlight this year’s National Reconciliation Week.
Perched high above the Geelong Ring Road at Wandana, a striking 3×3 metre artwork by indigenous artist B.J. O’Toole sits beside giant metal letters that spell out Wadawurrung Country.
An initiative of Committee for Geelong leadership students working with the Wadawurrung, the collaboration was facilitated by the Aboriginal business Arranyinha’s director, Marsha Uppill.
The project is aimed at raising the profile, awareness and recognition of the Geelong region’s first peoples.
Entitled “Wadawurrung Country”, the artwork speaks to the layers and depth of the Geelong, or Djilang, region, says O’Toole.
The first layer represented the ochre colours found everywhere on Wadawurrung country, he said.
“The next layer represents the coastline, the sandy beaches on Wadawurrung country.
“Next is the ocean, with its many known cultural sites, a sacred part of Wadawurrung history, followed by the volcanic plains that run through Wadawurrung country, telling of times long ago.”
The painting also depicts rivers, creeks and mountains, as well as Waa the crow – the protector watching over Wadawurrung Country and speaking to its inhabitants.
Villawood’s three-metre high corten steel letters are regularly used by the developer to highlight social issues.
Acknowledging the traditional ownership of Australian land was an important part of the sense of place in its communities, Villawood executive director Rory Costelloe said.
“It’s important we recognise the role of the Wadawurrung people in our lives, past and present.
“Doing so here on land at Wandana is a great way of celebrating our community and being able to do during National Reconciliation Week is timely.
“We share a rich and fascinating indigenous heritage in Australia. Reconciliation Week is all about tackling our challenges together and I think B.J. O’Toole’s art is a great way of helping us do that.”
The artwork and giant messaging were launched on Sorry Day, marking the start of National Reconciliation Week, and will remain in place until the completion of NAIDOC Week in July.
Wadawurrung chief executive owner Paul Davis said Aboriginal traditional ownership was often overlooked.
“This is all Aboriginal land and it’s important wherever you are in Australia, for people to recognise the land’s traditional owners.”