A meaningful and inspiring mural titled ‘Kyinandoo Wilam – Clever Hut’ has been created by a local Indigenous artist at Mannix College.
Simone Thomson, a Melbourne-based Aboriginal artist and Traditional Owner of Victoria’s Woi-Wurrung Wurundjeri and Yorta-Yorta language groups, worked with the College’s Indigenous residents to incorporate elements important to the community in the artwork. A friend of the College, Simone, delivered the Mannix Smoking Ceremonies in 2022 and 2023, signalling the start of the academic year.
The centre circle of the mural is the sun and represents the college campus and community surrounded by its natural environment. Four paths represent the diverse directions that our community comes from. Though each path is unique, they all meet in a shared space. The artwork also includes a tree of knowledge and Bunjil, The Creator Spirit, and Waa the Crow, the Keeper of Wind and Water, as protectors of the lands and waterways.
The mural was completed over two days, measuring approximately 4 meters by 2.5 meters. It was commissioned by Mannix College and the Mannix College Student Society, with generous support from Monash University’s William Cooper Institute. It was painted near the College Office and Dining Hall foyer to make a strong statement due to its prominent location and high foot traffic.
“Every person who enters Mannix will be struck and inspired by the power of this mural and all that it represents. Whether you visit, work or live in our community, the mural will be the orienting centre of your experience due to its location, beauty and scale,” Principal Andrew Swan said.
In 2023, the College created an Indigenous Advisory Committee with Indigenous and non-Indigenous staff and residents serving on it. Chaired by the Principal, the broad objective of the Advisory Committee is to strengthen Indigenous access, cultural safety, engagement and empowerment within the College. Among its ambitions, the Advisory Committee has committed to creating visual cultural items to demonstrate the College community’s commitment to supporting, recognising and celebrating First Nations culture, issues and people. Over the past month, the Advisory Committee developed their ideas for the mural, which Simone interpreted and painted.
“We are thankful that our Indigenous students chose to lead this important project with Simone and were able to contribute their ideas and perspectives on the stories they wanted to tell. The mural will educate and inspire Mannixians for generations to come.”
Wurundjeri is in two parts. ‘Wurun’, meaning the manna gum tree, and ‘djeri’, the white grub that lives in the tree – the witchetty grub. Floating gum leaves represent the lands of the Wurundjeri People and pays respects to the ancestors who walked this land since the beginning of time.
The Creator Spirit, known as Bunjil, comes in the form of the wedgetail eagle. He is the maker of all things and is one of two totems and moieties for the Kulin Tribes. The other being Waa the Crow, the Keeper of Wind and Water. Together they keep watch over the lands and waterways and are known as the protectors.
The majestic waters of the Birrarung, the river of mist and shadows weaves gently across the land. This sacred healing waterway has been a vital food and water source for the Wurundjeri People for thousands of years. It has provided river fowl, fish, freshwater yabbies and plentiful eel, amongst other things, including vital medicine plants and has also been an important means of travel for clans. This river, known as the Yarra, was used as a meeting place for the Kulin Tribes, where regular trade would take place and important ceremonies.
The arc-shaped mounds along the river symbolise the campsites and homes of community and represent the Mannix community and the wide distance its people come from. The strong, proud tree represents the tree of knowledge and learning. From the seeds of the earth, this small, tiny bud grows with time and weathers many storms, challenges and obstacles. The strength of its foundation is deep within the roots of where it is based, which has a significant role in its growth. Its many branches symbolise the pathways of knowledge and reflect life’s journeys into known and unknown directions.
The Sun is the giver of life. Its strength and vibrant, positive energy are symbolised by the central gathering circle representing Mannix College. This is the heartland in which all paths lead to – and lead from. Four paths come from the north, south, east and western skies. They represent the directions from which all students, staff and the Mannix Community come from. They meet in the circle for learning and knowledge and follow their own journey tracks to their onward destiny – always remaining connected to their place of knowledge and those who shared it with them.
From the bird’s eye view – the ‘U’ and ‘n’ symbol represents a person in the sitting position, legs crossed on the ground. ‘U’ symbols gather around the circle representing the students of Mannix, their meeting place and learning centre where they come for life lessons. Kangaroo tracks are moving towards the circle. Kangaroos are inquisitive by nature and gather in packs. These tracks symbolise the students’ learning journey as a group and their connection as a community in this time of growth.
The surrounding landscape of mountains and valleys are symbolised in the hilly mounds and creek systems representing the country in which Mannix sits. Bunjil’s country.
The place of connection to country and life learning.
Simone Thomson is a Melbourne-based Aboriginal artist and Traditional Owner of Victoria’s Woi-Wurrung Wurundjeri and Yorta-Yorta language groups through her mother, and she holds Irish and Scottish heritage through her father. Her Mum, sister Nicole and she have worked with Mannix before through educating our residents with their traditional Smoking Ceremonies, which all have appreciated. Her art finds inspiration in the textures and colours of the land, along with the ancestral bonds she has to the Birrarung (Yarra River) and Dhungala (the Murray River). Simone delivered the Mannix Smoking Ceremonies in 2022 and 2023.
More of Simone’s art can be viewed on her Instagram profile.