Yesterday we celebrated the unveiling of a new sculpture at Lake Ewlyamartup, a family of four – mother, father, toddler and baby – made from agricultural scrap metal. The family are welcoming, watching the lake and creating a point of interest for visitors.
Clontarf students and artist Voytek Kozlowski with the new sculptures.
But the story behind this piece of public art is so much more than ‘just a sculpture’.
The journey began in 2014 when local Noongar elders requested some sort of permanent acknowledgement of the long-standing cultural connection between indigenous people and Lake Ewlyamartup to be included in the site upgrades and wetland restoration. We could have just whacked up a sign, but instead chose a much richer path.
Two workshops were held in late 2014, bringing together representatives from the local Noongar families. These were powerful and moving days as stories were shared, memories brought up and hopes for the future revealed. Discussions were open, frank, important, sometimes raw and always heartfelt. But we found, regardless of whether the story was ancient or recent, happy or sad, the constant theme was family. Lake Ewlyamartup has always been a place of family, and modern day usage by people of all backgrounds seamlessly continues this theme. Whatever we did onsite to acknowledge culture had to be based around family.
Noongar families gathered at the Lake, discussing the cultural significance.
Ideas flowed, and the idea of a sculpture came to light. The clever decision to use recycled agricultural scrap metal meant that the natural rustic nature of the place would be reflected, and the shared path of farmers / Europeans alongside Noongars in the future of the Lake be recognized. A Welcome to Country was worded specifically to be included in the final piece, welcoming all visitors of all backgrounds to the lake, and recognizing the long Noongar association.
Elders working hard on the sculpture plan, guided by facilitator Ingrid Cumming.
The stories and understanding of Lake Ewlyamartup needed to be passed onto the next generation, so the teenage Noongar boys of the Katanning Clontarf Academy were invited to help build the sculpture. They enthusiastically agreed. Next, professional metal sculpture artist Voytek Kozlowski of www.designsbyvoytek.com was added to the team.
For three separate days over the summer of 2015-16, the boys, elders, Landcare and the artist met, listened, designed, visited the lake, collected scrap metal from three local farms, and laid out pieces in the form of the family-to-be. Slowly it came together, edging closer to a reality.
Clontarf students collecting materials for the sculpture.
Voytek then loaded his trailer with all the pieces, armed with photos, plans, layouts, a deeper sense of the story from the elders, and inspired by the lively spark of the teenagers, and headed back to his Dunsborough studio to start welding.
3 months later, the final product, standing 2.65m tall and over 1.8m wide was installed at Lake Ewlyamartup, covered in a shroud awaiting reveal.
70 people gathered at the lakes edge, with gentle sunshine and light breeze blowing, for the official unveiling. Local elder Gabrielle Hansen welcomed everyone to country in traditional Noongar language, elder Graham Eades spoke about the bountiful ‘supermarket’ Ewlyamartup was to his people over history, and Landcare, a Clontarf student and the artist spoke of the sculptures journey.
Then the anticipated moment arrived – as Katanning Shire President Liz Guidera said the words, three Noongar teenage boys pulled off the shroud and the sculpture was revealed. There was an audible gasp then applause as the audience came face to face with the smiling, welcoming metal family.
And there they now stand. Forever watching the lake, acknowledging the ancestors, welcoming everyone, and reminding us that family is one of the most important things of all.
The family – with toddler on dads shoulders and baby in mums arms – watching over the Lake.