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Bundjalung knowledge is inspiration for large-scale mural in Lismore’s Quad precinct


Sharlene King
31 January 2019

A large-scale mural which celebrates the intergenerational exchange of Bundjalung knowledge and language has been unveiled in the Lismore Quadrangle.

Renowned street artist Fintan Magee, who was born in Lismore, painted the mural on a wall of the Lismore Library building. He was commissioned by the The Quad last year and the final work will be a key feature of the 2019 Quadrangle creative program.

"Fintan's work will become an iconic feature of The Quad for many years to come and we are thrilled to be featuring his work in the precinct,” Quad Placemaking Officer Marisa Snow said.

“Fintan has a long history of association with Lismore’s thriving street art scene and it's fitting to honour his roots with this large-scale permanent work.”

The Quad partnered with Gnibi - Southern Cross University's Indigenous School – to develop the theme for the mural portrait which celebrates intergenerational exchange of Bundjalung knowledge and language. The work features an Elder and a young person from the Widjubul Wiyabul clan of the Bundjalung nation to represent their significant role in the preservation and revitalisation of traditional language.

"Celebration and sharing of Indigenous culture is at the forefront of The Quad's program and this work is a strong statement to solidify that vision into the future," Ms Snow said.

The work's broader theme represents the historic moment in 2017 when the NSW government passed the nation's first Aboriginal languages legislation, at which Widjubul Wiyabul Elders were present. A message stick, which will be held by the subject in the portrait, was painted by a young Lismore Widjubul man and used in the message stick ceremony in Parliament House.

The location of the mural, on the wall of the Lismore Library, was important, explained Professor Norm Sheehan, Director of the Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples.

“The mural is on the wall of classrooms where, in the 1950s, Widjubul Wiyabul children were first permitted to attend school. It is significant that decades later this mural commemorates the Elders who protected and preserved Widjubul Wiyabul and the younger people who accept the responsibility to hold and pass on the language for future generations,” Professor Sheehan said.

“The resilience, strength and non-violent agency of Aboriginal culture infuses the story of this work. It is a powerful statement of survival in the past and an affirmation of agency for the future. The story depicted in this image should be respected as it is a vital part of Lismore’s history.”


Fintan Magee bio

Fintan Magee’s practice is informed by a profound interest in political murals, inspired by exposure at a young age to those in his father’s native Northern Ireland. This is reflected in the socialist nature of his public artworks, which combine journalistic elements with public art. Magee’s work is driven by his recognition of the power of murals to communicate political and social viewpoints and thus divide or unite communities. His earlier large-scale paintings often inhabited isolated, abandoned and broken corners of a city, and today are found all over the world including in London, Vienna, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Moscow, Rome, Jordan, and Dublin amongst others.

In recent years, Magee has solidified his position as one of Australia’s leading public artists and has travelled extensively, completing projects in countries across the world. Some of the most recent projects of note include his work in a refugee camp in Jordan in 2017 and his solo exhibition Waves at Mathgoth Gallery in Paris. In 2016, his solo exhibition Water World, at Backwoods Gallery in Melbourne, and a series of works on abandoned silos in Patchewollock, Victoria. He is presently preparing for a solo exhibition in Los Angeles.

Magee has been featured in The Sydney Morning Herald, Juxtapoz magazine, ABC News, The Australian, The Urban Contemporary Art Guide (2014, 2015), Street Art Australia (Lou Chamberlain), Graffiti Art (FR) Home & Design, Trends Magazine, Surface (Soren Solker) and DK, amongst others.