Longing and belonging

Gathering Place. Photo by Kieran Murnane.

Part 2 of North Fremantle writer GRANT REVELL’S “little story” about Gathering Place, a site-specific architectural installation for the Fremantle Biennale.

THE sign posted QR Code invites another spoken world that helps explain: Sandra Harben: We are standing here near the bilya – the Swan River. Here on one side is the limestone wall, connected and associated with the Waugal, the Rainbow Serpent – the creator of Noongar laws and the land. Here, on this site, we are connected to the bilya and its creator the Waugal. 

Drew Penhale: This significant site and its cultural connections provided us with a real opportunity to work carefully and to work with traditional owner Sandra Harben. This collaboration and extended dialogue thrusted the project into a different direction from where it all started.

Sandra Harben: This walking along together, hand in hand, motivated us to think about this site as a significant cultural phenomenon. Our wirin, our good spirits were shared to think about this place in different ways.

Shane Winter: Us meeting on this site, connected us with Sandra’s previous times of teaching students on this site. Our similar readings, impressions and experience of this site came together. Here was the potential to work closely together. A journey of like-minded conversations and experiences together.

Sandra Harben: The Noongar spirits have guided us to work together, to work on this site. This site, and our embrace, is kwoppadar – really beautiful. We have learnt from each other. Our Love Letter to the Boodjar has helped us. Weaving Noongar and English language together to explain these site responsive relationships of working together on Noongar Country. 

Drew Penhale: The Love Letter to Place would speak of the site’s transitory phenomena – observations of light, movement, noises, the birds, the insects. Our installation wraps and connects the site together with its occupants and the Bilya.

Sandra Harben: Our message is to sit softly, listen and have quiet time for the Boodjar is wangkiny – our land is speaking.

Sandra Harben: The Love Letter is the catalyst written large into the seating of this installation. To sit back and reflect on the history of this place and the sense of belonging and connection to Walyalup. Our local limestone connects us to our creator and our dreaming stories, our knowledge, our kinship systems, and our families. Limestone as a cultural lense, as a Noongar lense allows the site occupants to appreciate these deeper Noongar values, and not just the colonial histories associated with the use of limestone for a different purpose – different values. Limestone provides us with an appreciation of respect, holding of shame, and the many stories told. To think about our spaces, our bilya, and Waugal with an inclusive cultural lense.”

Simply put, this Fremantle Biennale work, amongst many others in the program, is about the dissolving of longing and belonging to place. 

A generative relationship between multiple worlds that pays homage to our collective past, present and future dissolve. 

Where the public realm of conciliatory time makes for a profound architectural presence in place. Where spoken experiential language – especially Noongar – becomes the catalytic design relationship forever more.

Where a truly ancient-modern architecture can help us nyinniny, ni and katitch – sit, listen, and learn.

For many, the soft essence of this work can be found in the deeper relationships the artists hold for each another. 

The way they have cared for one another in the practice of their relationship. 

Here ‘site’ has become a cultural itinerary to other hopeful relationships. To other visceral design processes and outcomes that makes for great art, design and architecture. 

Importantly, Gathering Place allows us some creative agitation to look back on oneself; to sense other meanings of life, and of Country, with all the love and quiet gusto we can muster. 

With an ease, to tell the personal and collective place-based stories you know best.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s