A 2.4 metre possum skin cloak forged from cast steel and iron has been commissioned to provide an enduring spiritual connection to Country at RMIT’s City campus.
Law of the Land – RMIT’s Indigenous Artwork
VISUAL: This video features a series of images depicting the creation of a possum skin cloak. The video depicts the development of the work, including some sketches of the cloak and the artist sewing it together.. It also shows a Welcome to Country ceremony happening on RMIT’s City Campus.
Ambient music plays throughout.
ARTIST VICKI COUZENS SPEAKS: The Law of the Land artwork will be a possum skin cloak figure as if someone is standing within the cloak. It will be 2.4 metres high and made from cast steel and cast iron and it is representing Aboriginal knowledge and the ancestors and creation of the law of the land. The possum skin cloak is a significant cultural item and whilst it is a vessel, there visually is no real body inside. It’s embodying that spirit of country and place and the ancestors.
PROFESSOR PETER COLOE SPEAKS: This whole project fills me with pride because I’ve been a long-term staff member at RMIT, I have been engaged with the New Academic Street development from its inception, and we wanted to do more than just build a building – but to build a building that had presence. This Indigenous art work, which is being installed in the area of the New Academic Street here at RMIT is a fantastic opportunity for RMIT to build its presence and engagement with the Aboriginal community. And to bring together staff and students in a really exciting place.
PROFESSOR MARK McMILLAN SPEAKS: This is the first time that we have been able to have a discussion and then a representation of Sovereignty at RMIT. To see a better future between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and all others. I‘m really excited to see how people will engage with it – even if the intention is just to make an inquiry of itself.
ARTIST VICKI COUZENS SPEAKS: The concept is an inclusive concept. It’s not a particular story from my Country, which is Gunditjmara Country, or the Kulin Country that we’re on. It’s representative of Aboriginal knowledge and lore and the ever presence of our place as First Peoples in this country. So it’s representing place in Country and that belonging and our status as a First Nations people.
Co-CURATOR GRACE LEONE SPEAKS: What was really enriching in this project is that we had several collaborators work with us and several stakeholders. Managing each of their views and opinions about the process was highly important – so we had the opportunity to work with Indigenous senior members within University and to be guided by their insights into their cultural background.
Co-CURATOR JESSICA CLARK SPEAKS:: There was a group of Indigenous students that were involved in the initial project development. I organised and facilitated a workshop for these students. They were given the opportunity to share their ideas and feedback on what they would like to see for a permanent Indigenous artwork at the University and their feedback has been embedded into the project brief.
Around 20 artists were formed into a list that were selected down to five after consultation with the advisory committee. Those artists were invited to present a concept proposal in response to the project brief – where one artist was selected.
ARTIST VICKI COUZENS SPEAKS: I am hoping the presence of the work will be evocative and emotive. The viewer standing there not knowing anything about it will be motivated enough to try to understand what they are feeling. Because I am wanting them to feel a sense of the spiritual. A sense of Aboriginal place and people and connecting to that feeling.
We have a memory imprint, which is like a shadow that will be representing Bunjil the Great Creator Spirit who watches over Country and makes sure that things are OK – or he might so something about it.
Co-CURATOR GRACE LEONE SPEAKS: I believe the artwork will encourage us to stop, to reflect, to think about its message and to take that reflection with us as we progress with the daily activities that we do.
DIRECTOR OF NGARARA WILLIM CENTRE STACEY COMPTON SPEAKS: It’s also nice to think that we do have the Creator inside the cloak itself watching over what is happening in the street or into the buildings – and that can also be depicted in the way that we like to look over the people in our community. We like to care about them. We like to care about our students and our staff. And how Bunjil is depicted within that Cloak is another sign of that traditional knowledge.
PROFESSOR MARK McMILLAN SPEAKS: The diversity of the RMIT community and what we all hope to have as a shared future becomes really an interesting aspect of the artwork itself. Because its role and its brief was centrally to give people the opportunity to question their own place. It celebrates diversity by privileging the obvious, which is: What are we all founded on? We are all founded on Wurundjeri Land. We are all founded on Kulin Nations Land.
STACEY COMPTON SPEAKS: It will start to open up a more honest conversation about place and where we belong as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people but where we are going to as Australian people.
ARTIST VICKI COUZENS SPEAKS: I am expecting there to be responses. It’s not something that will just be – to walk past and ignore. That is our aim, to create an impact and to engage people and get them thinking.
AUDIO: Music fades out.
VISUAL: RMIT Logo appears
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