There was a Welcome to Country, smoking ceremony, speeches, dancing and a traditional Corroboree to mark the official opening of the Murrup Laarr (ancestral stones) sculpture in the North Gardens tonight (March 23).
A crowd of people, including many aboriginal elders, gathered to watch the first artwork in Ballarat's new indigenous sculpture park unveiled to the public as part of the Cultural Diversity Week.
The work, a stone circle with a traditional bungaree hut at its centre, is by Ballarat artist and Wathaurong woman Deanne Gilson. She told The Courier she was overwhelmed by the occasion and its reception.
In an emotional speech, she thanked the people who had helped her put the sculpture together, including the landscapers, and Andy Sutherland, the stonemason who built the traditional bungaree hut in the centre of the stone circle.
"[He] handbuilt the hut out of basalt with love and patience, Andy is a true stonemason," Ms Gilson said.
"The stones are the retainer of memory and place, and the plaque says by Deanne Gilson, that is just a name.
"The stones go deeper than my name and reflect my spirit and that of my ancestors and all our DNA for we don't really own anything. The land owns us.
"The stones were created as a place of peace and reflection for all people to come and enjoy and also learn about Aboriginal culture and our past.
The stones were created as a place of peace and reflection for all people to come and enjoy and also learn about Aboriginal culture and our past.Deanne Gilson, artist
"The stones, although a time capsule to the past, they can't bring back or change the past after colonisation.
"They can only open our eyes to a new and better future."
Ms Gilson's family were there for the occasion including her mother Aunty Marlene, and her father Barry Gilson, who was the site supervisor.
The occasion was introduced by City of Ballarat councillor Daniel Moloney, while a welcome speech followed from the Mayor Samantha McIntosh.
Ms Gilson's brother Barry Gilson also gave a speech and led Aboriginal songs, while the audience was invited up to inaugurate the sculpture's official opening by participating in a traditional dance at its centre.
Murrup Laarr is Ms Gilson's first public artwork. Hand prints from four generations of Ms Gilson's family decorate the inside of the hut at the circle's centre, while symbols set into the surrounding stones indicate other Aboriginal stories from the region.
The work is also partly based on a stone circle Corroboree point, which existed near where Loreto College now stands in the middle of the 19th century.
Ms Gilson's design was chosen by City of Ballarat's public art committee last year.
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