Top WA Indigenous artist, Juanetia (Neta) Knapp and a team of Aboriginal students at The University of Notre Dame Australia (UNDA), have recently completed a major work of art designed to bring the colours, symbols and stories of their lands onto the Fremantle Campus.
The 5.5m x 2.2m painting took nearly two months to complete and was unveiled on Wednesday 6 December at the University’s Manjaree Place, a meeting place for Aboriginal students which opened in June to coincide with National Reconciliation Week.
Ms Knapp worked as Artist in Residence at Manjaree Place to plan the creative content and guide the students – who have come to study at Notre Dame from all over Australia – in the intricacies of Aboriginal art.
Ms Knapp explained that the painting, entitled Manjaree Mia Kaart, meaning ‘a place of learning, a place of history and a place of spiritual journey of knowledge’, depicts the bold colours of the land and the sea, and features images such as turtles, kangaroos and fish which all have special meaning to individual students.
“When Aboriginal students come to Notre Dame from across Australia and see the colours of this artwork, they will be able to relate to the stories being told in the painting which will remind them of home,” she said.
“It is important to have a painting like this because it documents our 40,000-year history – from how men tracked kangaroos through the bush to the range of traditional medicines used and customs practiced over time. The painting highlights the ongoing spiritual and cultural significance of Aboriginal culture in Australia.”
Director of Indigenous Education at Notre Dame, Associate Professor Clive Walley, said this important project will further encourage dialogue about Nyungar and Aboriginal cultural ways in the heart of Fremantle.
“Throughout the year, many Notre Dame students have visited Manjaree Place between classes to complete assignments and study for exams,” he said.
“The inclusion of this significant piece of art to this meeting space will make students feel at home – surrounded by the stories, colours and memories from their home on Country.”
Project Coordinator from the School of Medicine, Louise Austen, said the painting was a great example of reconciliation in action and gave Notre Dame staff and students an opportunity to work alongside Nyungar Elders.
“This painting conveys deep meanings of belonging and connection to Country for Aboriginal staff and students at Notre Dame,” Ms Austen said.
“Through the vision of Neta and all those who contributed to this important project, Notre Dame continues to embrace the sharing of culture, stories and respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.”