Artwork sings to the soul  

Artwork sings to the soul

FREMANTLE artist Jo Darbyshire’s design on the canopy depicts a southern right whale with stars and starfish surrounding its body and a European whaling boat above its tail. 

The design was laser-cut from the canopy’s brown weathered corten steel by fellow artist Rick Vermey after digitising her designs.

Darbyshire worked closely with local elder Noel Nannup, basing the design on the traditional Whadjuk Noongar Singing The Whales story he told at Fremantle’s first One Day festival on Bathers Beach in 2017. According to the story Indigenous people stood at Wadjemup 

(Rottnest’s) west side to “sing the whales” migrating along the west coast. In the story, sea level rises around 7000 years ago covered “little spirit kulungas” (Europeans might describe it as the souls of children), who then would live in the mamong (whale). When the mamong died at a river mouth, the traditional owners would hold a ceremony to weep for it and ask it to release a spirit child, which would turn into a star shape, represented by the stars on Darbyshire’s design. 

The artist also has a close personal relationship to the site.

“I felt very proud because my grandmother was born directly above here on Arthur’s Head, so it’s great to have a family connection to the story and the place,” she said.  

Darbyshire worked with Fremantle History Society stalwart Anne Brake for information on the tunnel’s 1840s colonial whaling history.

by ELIZABETH TAN

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