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National Gallery of Victoria unveil Wurundjeri artist's eight metre bronze eel trap sculpture

Joseph Guenzler -

Wurundjeri artist Aunty Kim Wandin's latest creation, an eight-metre-long eel trap sculpture named Iuk bagurrk gunga, has been unveiled at the National Gallery of Victoria International on St Kilda Road.

The bronze sculpture, part of the NGV Triennial 2023, is a testament to Wandin's intricate weaving skills displayed in the original form crafted earlier this year.

A significant public artwork, Aunty Kim's sculpture recognises the deep ties between the Wurundjeri people and the lands they have safeguarded for generations.

Emphasising the migratory routes of eels, the sculpture draws attention to their modern journey through sewers and underground waterways beneath Naarm (Melbourne).

In collaboration with the NGV, the City of Melbourne commissioned the sculpture as a tribute to the history of Wurundjeri women.

The artwork celebrates their weaving tradition and the enduring connection with the short-finned eel, referred to as "iuk" in Woiwurrung language.

'Iuk bagurrk gunga' bronze scultpure by Aunty Kim Waldin. (Image: supplied, NGV)

Aunty Kim said her weaving honours her ancestors, her grandmothers and the Aboriginal women that look after family.

"'iuk bagurrk gunga' also honours the eel and their journey through waterways and across land," she said,

"Just like the eels, we are still here and this bronze monument is showing continuity for my Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Community."

Unveiled on December 3, the sculpture is part of a free exhibition offering a compelling snapshot of the contemporary world.

Tony Ellwood AM, Director, NGV director, Tony Ellwood said the Gallery was grateful for the generous support from the City of Melbourne to make the ambitious new commission possible.

"By presenting this monumental sculpture by Aunty Kim Wandin in moat at NGV International, it will be the first work visitors encounter upon their arrival, signalling the long history of creativity on this continent that pre-dates the arrival of Europeans," Mr Ellwood said.

Iuk bagurrk gunga is the second in a series of three public art pieces commissioned by the City of Melbourne for the NGV Triennial.

Featuring the works of 120 artists, designers, and collectives, the NGV Triennial engages with global contemporary practices.

The exhibition, spanning all four levels of NGV International, showcases nearly 100 projects, including more than 25 world-premiere projects commissioned by the NGV.

The initial work, Australian Birds by British artist Julian Opie, debuted in the 2020 NGV Triennial with the last commissioned piece being slated for presentation in 2026.

Together, these three artworks will constitute a significant component of the City of Melbourne's Art and Heritage Collection.

Lord Mayor, Sally Capp said she was proud to have such a display honouring Wurundjeri women, symbolising them and Kulin land.

"At the forecourt of our iconic National Gallery, it is the perfect way to welcome visitors to what is an unmissable exhibition," Ms Capp said.

"We want to thank Aunty Kim Wandin for her unique art and in bringing to life 80,000 years of history and culture."

The NGV Triennial, showcased at NGV International on St Kilda Road, Melbourne, is open for viewing until April 7, 2024.

Admission is free.

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