Return to ritual

• Bruce Abbott and William Hayward have a few sandbags to fill. Photo by Steve Grant.

AN artwork linking themes of climate change, broken rituals and Indigenous history will gradually emerge on Bathers Beach during the upcoming Sculpture at Bathers exhibition.

Constructed out of thousands of hessian sandbags, the work has been conceptualised by local artist Bruce Abbott who’s after a helping hand from the community to make it happen.

Abbott says the name of the piece, Seawall Bunker, refers to creating a place where people feel safe in the face of encircling dangers – in this case rising sea levels.

But he says the piece will also reflect how the exploitation of nature’s gifts has disrupted indigenous communities and their sacred ceremonies.

In response, Noongar Minang man William Hayward will curate a ceremony before the work is dismantled.

Mr Hayward said he’ll be exploring the notion of climate refugees, something he says is part of Noongar creation stories that tell of rising sea levels that cut off Rottnest Island from the mainland.

“As the sea levels rose we faced climate change and the challenges it brings,” Mr Hayward said.

“There were climate refugees who had to negotiate through the Noongar lore system so that people could move over and accommodate them.”

He says there is much the modern world can learn from indigenous cultures and their ancient knowledge.

Abbott says the sculpture will also be symbolic of the land bridge that once blocked the mouth of the Swan River. He says he was taken by the notion that north of the river was for women’s business and south for men’s business, and how breaking that connection by dynamiting the bar to build a port had somehow broken the circuit of ancient rituals.

Sculpture at Bathers runs from February 15 to March 2, and Abbott says his piece will take about a week to construct. He’s leaving the ultimate design to participants, saying the concept lends itself to evolving with the community.

Anyone willing to fill a few sandbags and help with the construction can give him a call on 0430 116 488.

by STEVE GRANT

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