Comment invited on sculptural installations telling story of meeting of two cultures at Kurnell

The ribs of a ship, which could also be the rib cage of a whale, on the beach at Kurnell is depicted in a proposed sculptural installation to mark next year's 250th commemoration of the arrival of HMS Endeavour and the meeting of two cultures.

Another proposal includes images of a humpback whale, Gweagal and non-Indigenous family groups and a stringybark canoe.

The board of Kamay 2020, a joint state and federal government project, shortlisted the two concept designs after tenders were called for a public artwork or structure to mark the event.

They will be on public exhibition for comment until November 11.

Cronulla MP and Attorney-General Mark Speakman, who is a member of the project board, said the installation was an important part of the $50 million upgrade of Kamay Botany Bay National Park.

The upgrade will include new ferry wharves at Kurnell and La Perouse and a new visitors centre at Kurnell.

Mr Speakman said a public artwork or structure was intended to interpret the cultural heritage and significance of the park, ideally with a view from the ship and a view from the shore.

Proposal A, by Think OTS, is a cross-cultural collaboration between Gweagal artist Theresa Ardler and public artist sculptor Julie Squires.

It shows four proposed sculptural installations:

  • A humpback whale, the iconic figure of Dharawal Dreaming, which symbolically represents the Gweagal people of Botany Bay that Cook encountered.
  • A Gweagal family group, inspired by a journal entry of Joseph Banks that records his observation of the family from the ship.
  • A traditional stringybark canoe. People fishing in bark canoes were seen from the ship and recorded by both Cook and Banks.
  • Yalabi Dayalung Bora - The Gathering, representing the view from the shore. The Gweagal people thought the ship was a big white bird coming in through the heads and sailing towards them. The white sails reminded them of white bird wings stretching out as far as they could go, ready to fly. This will be a big white bird formed in flannel flowers that oversees a bora or gathering place for ceremony and the passing of cultural knowledge.

Proposal B is entitled Eyes of the Land and the Water, by Alison Page and Nik Lachajczak.

It is described as a sculptural installation that centres on the notion that the land reveals the stories of the shore and the water reveals the story from the ship.

As far as the "eyes of the land" are concerned, under this proposal there will be work placed on the foreshore where the Gweagal people looked out and watched two warriors encounter Cook and his men.

The "eyes of the land" will symbolically represent the middens that symbolise occupation and survival of the people, who once gathered there and our physical echoes of the generations of Gweagal who hunted, gathered, sang, laughed, cried, danced and ate.

The sculptural element representing these eyes will be made of layers of tempered glass of various thicknesses with words, artefacts and cultural imagery revealing Gweagal culture etched and embedded into the material.

In the tidal zone the eyes of the water will reveal the ribs of the ship cast in bronze, also reminiscent of the rib cage of a whale, so it can be looked at both ways.

It is essentially the skeleton of HMS Endeavour, which is always present in Australian's minds regardless of where the place is marked.