Stunning new mural speaks to Indigenous students from all Nations  

[supplied by Flinders Uni]

Assoc Professor Simone Tur (right) with artist Elizabeth Close in front of the mural.

 Image: supplied

Students at Flinders University’s Yunggorendi Tjilbruke student lounge at its main Adelaide campus are being welcomed by a surge of colour and a fresh sense of belonging, thanks to a magnificent new mural.

In vibrant blue, teal and ochre on bold black, the diversely textured work flowing over its internal walls was officially unveiled at an event on 1 September 2020, which also announced Flinders University’s newest Senior Elder-On-Campus, Uncle Lewis Yarluburka O’Brien.

The mural is central to a broader light and bright overhaul of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student lounge, where Kaurna Elder Uncle Lewis will be based when on campus. His appointment follows those of Elders Richard Balang/Japaljarri Fejo at Flinders’ Darwin campus - a Larrakia and Wurramungu man - and Arrernte woman Dr Pat Miller AO at the University’s Alice Springs campus.

The new roles are part of a University-wide initiative to engage more deeply with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, enhance Indigenous perspectives across education and research, and enrich support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff – aligning with Flinders University’s Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan launched in June this year.

“For this prominent lounge feature we wanted the artist to speak to the importance of belonging and community, and to visualise their story and journey into higher education from an Indigenous perspective,” says Flinders University Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous), Associate Professor Simone Ulalka Tur.

“We have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who come to Yunggorendi Mande from many communities around the country, and we want students to feel welcome. We needed to give the artist the freedom to achieve that in a way that would reflect this diversity,” Associate Professor Tur explains.

The artwork’s bold colours echo the sky, sea and land - reflecting the unique views and natural landscape of Flinders University and infusing guests with a sense of energy and belonging. It is the creation of contemporary Adelaide-based Aboriginal artist Elizabeth Close, a Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara woman and Flinders University alumna.

The project was managed by South Australian Indigenous business Ochre Dawn Creative Industries, who liaised with Flinders University, the artist and other suppliers who manufactured the pillar vinyls and signage.

Ms Close says the organic, flowing walls invited a narrative wrapped around the concepts of journey.

 

“This is a space where students from all corners of the continent and the Islands come together.

“Their journeys are all different and not linear. Yet there is a sameness across them all, which is the desire to come here and learn and take that knowledge back,” she says.

Ms Close frequently uses colour to speak to country and form to discuss narrative, a method she has employed in this design.

“The view of the coast and sky is magnificent in this space, so I wanted to honour that through the pallet. The texture speaks to the landscape including the undulations of the coastline, together with the different lands of the people who use this area.”

The circles in the kitchen represent the concept of community; the curves across the doors reflect students on a common journey of learning; the large curved wall honours where students have come from and where they are going.

“It is very much landscape based,” Ms Close explains.

 

“As a Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara woman I couldn’t come to Kaurna country and tell their stories, nor could I tell my own stories on Kaurna land. What I can do, is speak broadly to that connection to country we all share.”

The variations in pattern reflect the many different places students have come from – rolling hills to coastal communities or rocky landscapes across the nation.

In recent years Ms Close has immersed herself deeper in public art. Her murals have taken her around the country and the world. “I love public art. I love its accessibility. It takes art out of the galleries and puts it where everyone can access and enjoy it,” she says.

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