Melbourne's beloved Art Trams are today making their triumphant return for RISING, Victoria's newest major cultural event, and for the first time are designed entirely by Victorian First Peoples artists.
Curated by RISING Artistic Associate Kimberley Moulton (Yorta Yorta) and rolling out over the next two weeks, the six First Peoples Art Trams reflect a sense of place that is core to RISING.
Each of the works speak to diverse themes, from environmental ecologies and caring for Country to personal stories of journeying and family and reflections on the history and cultural heritage of First Peoples in the Victorian landscape.
The six selected artists whose work will be featured are:
• Deanne Gilson (Wadawurrung),
• Thomas Marks (Wotjobaluk/Gunaikurnai),
• Aunty Rochelle Patten (Dhudhuroa/Wemba Wemba/Yorta Yorta),
• Jarra Karalinar Steel (Boonwurrung/Wemba Wemba),
• Ray Thomas (Brabrawooloong Gunnai) and
• Aunty Zeta Thomson (Wurundjeri/Yorta Yorta).
Thanks to Melbourne Art Trams Program partners, Department of Transport, Yarra Trams and Creative Victoria, the works will be showcased on the network for 12 months featuring internal QR codes that enable travellers to find out more about the artists and their respective works.
Taking to routes 5, 6, 16, 58 or 72 from today, the first of the Melbourne Art Trams is Mookies around the watering hole designed by respected Elder, artist, cultural teacher and advocate Aunty Zeta Thomson.
"Mookie means spirit in Yorta Yorta. In our culture, visitors would call out to Ancestor Mookies as they walked through the bush announcing they were coming onto Country."
Aunty Zeta explains in her artistic statement, "They would meet and gather at sacred waterholes for ceremony. After meeting, the travellers would begin their journey across Country to the next place, 'galyan woka ngana buraya moya'"a beautiful place far, far away. This work teaches us to respect Country and honour Ancestors".
"We had an overwhelming response to the call out for artists with sixty expressions of interest received from First Peoples artists in Victoria, all of which were strong in diverse ways," said curator Kimberley Moulton, "The six selected designs share a beautiful manifestation of the strength of Victorian First Peoples artists and our stories that speak to the deep cultural layers that continue which are thousands of generations old but are also contemporary and talk to the lived experience of First Peoples today. It's been a privilege to work with the artists on this and I am so excited for the people and visitors of Melbourne to be able to experience these artworks and stories of our community. "
"These tram-size artworks are an amazing addition to our city's vibrant cultural environment and we're proud to be partners with RISING in sharing First Peoples' stories through the Melbourne Art Trams Program," said Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll "RISING is set to create a powerful artistic legacy and we're pleased to be involved in it."
"Art Trams are a much-loved fixture of Melbourne's creative landscape, providing a moving canvas for local artists and bringing art to our daily commute," said Parliamentary Secretary for Creative Industries Harriet Shing "This year's ground-breaking edition will bring extraordinary works by First Peoples artists to audiences throughout our famous tram network."
Across the next two weeks the remaining five Melbourne Art Trams will take to the network.
Launching the week commencing Monday 24 May:
Artist: Jarra Karalinar Steel (Boonwurrung/Wemba Wemba)
Artwork: iilk (eel)
Tram route: 48 and 109
"From a child my mother told me stories of the iilk (eel) and their important journey cycles and role as a food source for the Boonwurrung people. In this work I have included personal icons of wattle which is my name Jarra Karalinar (wattle tree woman), feathers of Bundjil (wedge tail eagle) and Waa (crow), patterns that reference Kulin design and Walert Murrup (possum spirits) which are healing spirits."
Artwork: Djeetgun Dreaming
Artist: Ray Thomas (Brabrawooloong Gunnai)
Tram Route: 70 and 75 tram
"Djeetgun, the female blue wren is a wrukut (womens) totem of the Gunnai people of Gippsland. The linear designs pay respect to my Ancestors, the markings have been inspired from shields collected in the 1800's now held in our keeping place. The Gunnai Lit (child) is my granddaughter Bryeesha, affectionately called Djeetgun by the whole family. The gum leaves represent Djeetgun as she flutters through the under growth of the bush."
Artist: Aunty Rochelle Patten (Dhudhuroa/Wemba Wemba/Yorta Yorta)
Artwork: March of the Ants
Tram Route: 58 and 59
"This work pays respect to caring for country and community. Our Old People learnt a lot by observing the environment, it tells us things if we are open to listening. The ants represent travelling, working together and participating in our community. Every ant has a role to play to ensure survival and continuity. The feet represent us, learning from ants and applying principles of working together to our society to care for country and each other."
Launching in the week commencing Monday 31 May:
Artist: Thomas Marks (Wotjobaluk/Gunaikurnai)
Artwork: Walking on my Father's Country
Tram Route: 6 and 19
"This work represents walking on my father's Country and the importance of leaving my footprints and connections. My father was a proud Wotjobaluk man. It's a tribute to him, connecting our two spirits together as father and son. It shows flowering Indigenous plants that grow along the Wimmera River nurtured by the warmth of the sun and the river. These have provided food and cultural resources for Wotjobaluk people for generations."
Artist: Deanne Gilson (Wadawurrung)
Artwork: Karringalabil Bundjil Murrup, Manna Gum Tree (The Creation Tree of Knowledge)
Tram Route: 3, 3a, 64 and 67 tram routes.
"This work is a Wadawurrung creation story at a place known as Black Hill in Gordon, Victoria. It is a story is of a man known as Karringalabil the creator spirit, who created the first man and woman out of clay (paapul). He took bark and leaves from the great birthing tree known today as the manna gum tree, a sacred tree that housed the spirits of creation. Karringalabil turned the tree spirits into the birds that represent our ancestral totems."