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Melbourne's newest library, narrm ngarrgu celebrates Kulin culture

Rhiannon Clarke -

Melbourne's newest community hub, narrm ngarrgu Library and Family Services, has unveiled a collection of public artworks and commissions that celebrate the richness of Kulin culture.

The library is the first to open in the City of Melbourne in almost a decade, offering a range of family health and wellbeing services, as well as a collection of over 30,000 new books.

The space was designed to be of enhanced value and significance for the local community, and is the first of its kind dedicated to sharing the wisdom and voice of the Kulin people.

The Council worked closely with Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Elders, artists, and community members to curate the narrm ngarrgu art program, which features a series of culturally-significant immersive works by Aboriginal artist Maree Clarke.

The works take visitors on a journey into Kulin culture throughout the building, providing opportunities for reflection, learning, ceremony, and play.

A photograph of a protest that occurred in the 1990s. (Image: Lucy Foster)

Clarke's works include a coolamon cast from a giant eucalyptus burl for smoking ceremonies, and visitors are welcomed to the space with a series of coloured lenticular prints representing the Kulin seasons.

"I wanted to create and integrate pieces that reflect the Kulin Nation culture and knowledge that have always been here – giving anyone who walks into the building a chance to connect in a playful and thoughtful way," Ms Clarke said.

"If people don't know about the five clans of the Kulin Nations, what better place to start learning than in narrm ngarrgu.

"I feel incredibly proud to have worked with my dream team – Lucy Foster, Hilary Jackman, Ellen Sayers and Jeph Neale. Jeph sadly passed away in January this year but helped create this vision for everyone to share and learn about our connection to country, culture, and place."

A native forest and plants design by Maree Clarke and located in the

children's library. (Image: Lucy Foster)

The Kulin story is brought to life through a diverse collection of more than 70 contemporary artworks and heritage items that are on display throughout the building.

With the support of Clarke, the collection includes three newly commissioned works by Wergaia/Wemba Wemba artist Kelly Koumalatsos and Ngarigu artist Peter Waples-Crowe, as well as existing works from the Council's Art & Heritage Collection.

Koumalatsos' Bubup Gurrk-Bap's Coat - Baby Girl-Mum's Coat/Cloak and Waples-Crowe's Underneath #1 are just two examples of the unique and thought-provoking pieces that can be found in the collection.

The exterior of the Munro building is adorned with artist Rose Nolan's Screen Works (ENOUGH-NOW/EVEN/MORE-SO), a large-scale artwork that references the market's role in social and economic exchange and speaks to the site's transformation from a mercantile past to a place that honours its Indigenous heritage.

Walking on country, the main library, carpet design by Maree Clarke. (Image: Spilt Milk)

Lord Mayor Sally Capp emphasised the significance of narrm ngarrgu as the City of Melbourne's first public library to open in almost ten years, highlighting it as a crucial achievement for both the Council and the community.

"With doors officially open, we welcome everyone inside to explore the remarkable collection of 30,000 items and celebrate our longstanding and important connection to Aboriginal art, heritage and knowledge," Mayor Capp said.

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