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Art collaboration honours local Wadandi family

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Western Australian artists have recently completed a mural in the state's South West town of Margaret River (Wooditjup) honouring the long-time cultural contribution of local Wadandi family, the Webb family, to the region.

The large artwork funded by the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River is positioned at the top of Margaret River town as a visual thank you to the family.

Artists Ian Mutch and Jack Bromell, along with Wadandi Elder and award-winning artist Sandra Hill, created the mural to represent Wadandi Country and the local flora and fauna.

Pibulmun Wadandi Yunungjarli Elder Wayne 'Wonitji' Webb said the mural moved him.

"I feel quite emotional. I don't often get recognition for what l believe in. I just know it's my role to keep our culture strong and to ensure our next generations are proud, know who they are and where they belong in our cultural landscape," Mr Webb said.

The respected Elder also said the effort put in by the group of artists made him feel proud.

"To have three mooditj (awesome) artists create this and dedicate it to the work I love doing makes me feel like I have contributed just a little bit to our ancestors' fight to keep us strong."

Mr Webb's wife, Toni Webb, of Latji Latji descent in Murray River, Victoria, said the mural is very important to her family who has spent many years working on cultural awareness in the region.

"The mural means so much to myself, nada kordamat (husband) Wayne and nobs (son) Iszaac," she said.

"We've spent our lives protecting and recording archaeological, anthropological, mythological and cultural landscapes and working behind the scenes to promote protection of Pibulmun Wadandi Boodja."

The Indigenous icon on the mural was painted by Ms Hill, who said it is placed in the lower left corner for a reason.

"Indigenous icons are positioned lower down so that they are grounded and not represented in the sky," she said.

The red line symbolises the bloodline of a family.

"This red bloodline runs through our Country," Ms Hill said.

"The creation of Wooditjup is an ancient story that has been told by our people long before colonisation and the river is a fully registered and very important Aboriginal site."

Other elements include a brown circle (home Country), patterns in the middle circle (traditional markings on shields), a red circle (old, ancient blood), a black lined circle (community) and ochre dots on the outside (family clan groups).

The mural also contains cockatoos, which inhabit the region, painted by Mutch.

"Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoos are native to the South West and provide a sense of place, belonging and cultural significance," he said.

The last part of the collaboration is the Marri branches with leaves painted by Bromell.

"The Marri tree ... is a species native to the South West, whose name derives from the local Noongar language," Bromell said.

"Red-tails can frequently be found perched amongst Marri branches feeding on nuts and flowers, which are an important food source for native bird species.

"Painting Marri in the mural highlights a sense of place through connection with native wildlife and ancient culture."

The mural incorporates Mr Webb's totem, Kurrak. Photo by Clare Alcock.

The Webb family also worked with the artists on the project.

"We've been honoured to help Sandra (as she is part of many years of Stolen Generations) reconnect with her culture," Ms Webb said.

She said Ms Hill knew Mr Webb's totem was Kurrak, the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, and incorporated this into the artwork specifically.

"Sandra ... has dedicated this gnwirri (beautiful designed artwork) as a thank you [to] us [for] giving and continuing to give back to Country, culture and community."

"It's a thank you for our continuation of orally passing our information from our Grannies, my parents, our Aunties and Uncles. It's a very special honour coming from our own mob, it means we've earned it the old way."

By Clare Alcock

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