The Soul of Country
“In order to work towards reconciliation, and develop a shared sense of our history, we have to first understand the soul of our country on which we live.”
N’arweet Carolyn Briggs
The art by Jarra Karalinar Steel is a modern interpretation of the spirit of her, her mother’s and ancestors’ land during Bundjil’s creation of the landscape of the Yaluk-ut Weelam (the local clan of the Boon Wurrung).
According to Boon Wurrung, the country was created by a spiritual being – known as Bundjil, who travelled as an eagle. Bundjil was a very powerful man. He was the head man of the Kulin people. Bundjil was responsible for making all the mountains, the rivers and streams, and also the sea and the ocean.
Bundjil carried a large blade that he used to make the land, and he travelled around cutting the rivers and the mountains and all the different shapes of the land.
The “Soul of Country (Bundjil Midst Creation, Healing from Creation)” depicts Bundjil’s creation story from his point of view – flying over the land, using his blade to create the landscape and healing it from the time of chaos.
The traditional art of the Yaluk-ut Weelam was often done as a temporary installation, which included sand and body paintings.
The women used the inside of their possum cloaks to draw “maps” of their journey cycle.
The “Soul of Country” reflects an interpretation of the traditional patterns created by the women in recording ‘maps’ of their annual journey cycles through the country created by Bundjil.
The colours chosen by Jarra are the colours of Melbourne’s native landscape, which became more vivid and important to her after being away from country for a year. The gold represents the wattle tree, which is a symbol death and rebirth. It is also the gold in which modern Melbourne was built with. The Gold Rush also allowed some of her ancestors’ opportunities to help them survive.
The land is an important part of the Yaluk-ut Weelam people’s journey.
The coastal area provided the basis for the economy of the Yaluk-ut Weelam. The six seasons of the Yaluk-ut Weelam brought an abundant harvest. Each year, the iilk (eel) would be harvested when they returned to the rivers and streams; the myrnong (yam daisy) would be cultivated; and during deep winter, known as Beerreen, the fruit of the sacred Cherry Ballart were collected for ceremony.
The art work’s connection to the story of Alfred Health's reconciliation journey is about achieving reconciliation with understanding “the souls of our country” and healing through creation and having our stories heard and shared. Bundjil created and healed the Yaluk-ut Weelam from chaos. The Alfred, working with the Boon Wurrung in creating their RAP, are working towards healing and creating a better future.