Passenger is a suite of sculptural silhouettes set along two intersecting axes at Yagan Square, Perth.
It is inspired by the story of Nyungar woman ‘Fanny’ Balbuk’s stalwart opposition to the growth of the colonial town: when she found new buildings blocking her path to collect plants and crustacea from the lagoon, she used her digging stick to barge through doors and fences. Pioneering anthropologist and social worker, Daisy Bates tells this story: in Passenger, her words are reproduced in ways that amplify and differentiate the seven sculptural manifestations. For this, a bespoke font was designed: it features dots or circular holes representing Balbuk’s digging sick. In our work, Balbuk ‘writes back’ and through the language of colonial authority.
Recognising that Balbuk did not walk down a street every day at all times, but moved purposefully, according to the rhythms of the six Nyungar seasons (Birak, Bunuru, Djeran, Makuru, Djilba, Kambarang), Passenger uses different colours to represent the different seasons – Djeran is green, for example, Kamberang, yellow. It is important to note that ‘Passenger’ responded to the ‘creative template’ that Material Thinking wrote for Yagan Square; as a result of the ‘creative template’ public art offerings and landscape details share a broad thematic palette. This means that Passenger’s environmental and cultural themes are integrated with other elements at the Square. A maximum diversity of expression coexists with a coherence of conception that assures a powerful sense of place.
Passenger emerged from the partnership established between the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority and the Whadjuk Working Group (representing the Nuyngar peoples’ interests). Every aspect of its content, form and treatment was the outcome of ‘gifting’, of imaginations meeting, exchanging and trusting. As part of a ‘new body’ that does not attempt to disguise the trauma of historical loss, we hope it redefines the character of reconciliation as an act of creative acknowledgement and transformation.