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mirragma gunugurr-wa Bamboo Raft

Take a stroll on Larrakia Country, along Darwin’s Esplanade to Bicentennial Park, and you’ll come across the most impressive sight – a four-metre-high mermaid tail, beside it, a raft. The two sculptures, crafted from recycled aluminium, form Darwin’s newest major public artwork. 

By Tierney Seccull

Created by Larrakia artists Uncle Roque Gullawun Lee and Trent Bundirrik Lee, mirragma gunugurr-wa tells the story of how bamboo rafts were used for transport by Larrakia people between Darwin and Mandorah, and their strong saltwater connection.

Larrakia language for bamboo raft, Uncle Roque recalls hearing about mirragma gunugurr-wa.

“The old people told me when I was younger that they used rafts to go to ceremonies, fishing, and to connect with family on the opposite side of Darwin Harbour.”

As well as sharing the story of the bamboo rafts and ancient tales of mermaids inhabiting the waters of Darwin Harbour, collaborator Trent Lee says the public work is a symbol of resilience.

“I hope it will give a sense of pride for us mob and show that we are still here after all this time – living, breathing, still hunting on our Country and doing what we do.”

The work was commissioned by City of Darwin in partnership with Larrakia Nation and GARUWA Creative, a First Nations owned storytelling agency. City of Darwin Lord Mayor Kon Vatskalis says it’s important Larrakia culture is on display and accessible on Country.

“This wonderful piece of art will become a cultural landmark in Darwin, and is another way people can interact with Larrakia culture on Larrakia land.”

With storytelling and culture sharing at its core, visitors can scan the on-site QR code to learn the Larrakia story and get insight into the process behind the work. 

Larrakia Nation assisted with selecting the artists before City of Darwin put out a national call-out for public art consultants. GARUWA Creative was ultimately chosen to facilitate the project, and with vast experience in film and documentary, this was their first public art commission.

Created by siblings Genevieve Grieves and Kieran Satour, of the Worimi from the mid-north coast of New South Wales, GARUWA’s purpose is to facilitate storytelling with a collaborative and holistic approach. Creative Director Genevieve Grieves says the project came together in a wholesome way.

“It's refreshing to see a project that puts Traditional Owners at the core, and then bring in a team to support their vision,” she says. 

“It shares deep stories of place. Through it, we learn more about and appreciate the significance of the Country we are on."


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