Metro Tunnel’s First Nations artwork “unexpected delight” in Federation Square


If you’ve passed through Federation Square in recent weeks, you might have noticed some powerful new artwork adorning the Metro Tunnel site fence facing the East Shard.

Created by Woi-Wurrung Wurundjeri and Yorta-Yorta Traditional Owner, Knowledge Holder, Keeper of Language, elder and artist Aunty Zeta Thomson, the mural depicts the artist’s own family totem – the emu.

“Every Aboriginal person has a totem. The emu is my totem,” Aunty Zeta said. “Our totems are passed down within family over generations. They define who we are in the Aboriginal world.”

“We are told we cannot harm or eat our totems. They are our spirit protectors, our Dreaming – it is to keep a balance on Country and the environment.”

The mural is part of the Metro Tunnel Creative Program, which is designed to maintain Melbourne’s vibrancy, liveability and public spaces during construction of the Metro Tunnel.

Through her artwork, Aunty Zeta celebrates her strong links to her ancestral homelands along the Birrarung (Yarra River), the river of mist and shadows – and the Dhungala (Murray River).

Using an original painting by Aunty Zeta and working collaboratively, the mural was painted by mural artist Mike Makatron, who works in a variety of media, mainly on walls, canvas and illustrative works on paper.  He has painted and collaborated in more than a dozen Aboriginal communities.

Assisting Makatron was Aunty Zeta’s daughter and Naarm-based artist Simone Thomson.

While Aunty Zeta chose not to physically paint any aspect of the mural herself, it was very important to her that someone from her family painted the cultural elements, such as the emu chicks.

According to Metro Tunnel Creative Program creative engagement manager Sarah Robins., the striking mural offers something special to those passing through Federation Square.

“For a lot of people, it will be an unexpected delight to walk around the corner and see this beautiful work.”

“It’s quite visually spectacular, but it will also make them think about the Country they’re on. Australian native animals are important to everyone, but they are also culturally significant to this artist and her family,” Robins said.

Aunty Zeta’s artwork was selected by a committee that had representation from ACMI, The Koori Heritage Trust, National Gallery of Victoria and Federation Square.

The Metro Tunnel Creative Program welcomes artistic proposals and actively invites First Nations artists to participate.

The program uses a number of ways to commission artworks, including inviting artists to register for the Artist Pool, as well as direct commissions. •

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