Three Kurnai Women on Country

The working group (L-R ):Jessie McLennan, Lynette Hayes, Jeannie Haughton, Rebecca Van-Dyk Hamilton, Cheryl Drayton.

Three Kurnai Women on Country is a life-size bronze sculpture of Dorothy Hood, Regina Rose, and Euphemia Mullet Tonkin, who maintained their Kurnai culture in the face of immense change, and the systemic racism and oppression of historic laws and policies.

The artwork depicts their figures intertwined, anchored to country and to each other. Each woman holds an object that symbolises their efforts to keep their families safe.

Regina is playing her guitar, Dorothy holds a book, and Euphemia carries a 44-gallon drum of washing. The guitar pays tribute to the inherent and joyous importance of the arts within the Kurnai community, the book is a symbol of the enforced means of learning that did not respect Kurnai cultural heritage, and the 44-gallon drum has both nostalgic connections to campfires and a fearful reminder that cleanliness was imperative or children would be taken away.

The sculpture – in Drouin’s Civic Park – was created by Jessie McLennan and Rebecca Vandyk-Hamilton who prepared the concept designs, sketches and clay maquettes. Meridian Sculpture foundry in Melbourne then created a full-size 3D model.

Lynette Hayes, Regina Rose’s daughter, created a frieze border for the artwork incorporating Kurnai symbols such as the blue wren, and author Jeannie Haughton produced the verbal and audio aspects which can be accessed via QR code.

The artists collaborated with Kurnai Elder Cheryl Drayton, who selected the objects held by the three women and provided cultural advice and storytelling.

The launch was on the first day of National Reconciliation Week, and its theme of ‘Be a voice for generations’ is embodied by Dorothy, Regina and Euphemia.

Artists: Rebecca Vandyk-Hamilton, Jessie McLennan and Lynette Hayes, with audio by Jeannie Haughton, in collaboration with Kurnai Elder Cheryl Drayton.

Location: Civic Park, Drouin, Baw Baw Shire.

Photo credits: Baw Baw Shire Council.

A sketch of the proposed sculpture of Three Kurnai Women on Country

Artist Jessie McLennan is in the workshop stirring clay in a pot.

An artist at work on the sculpture, carving the clay.

The artists add details to the clay sculpture using sculpting tools and their hands.

The plaque at the base of the sculpture with the artists names inscribed - Lynette Hayes, Jessie McLennan, Rebecca Vandyk-Hamilton. The border design on the plaque is by Lynette Hayes.

A Kurnai symbol, gum leaves and fern leaves are carved into the base of the statue.

The artists look over the details of their sculpture with a criitcal eye. They are planning where to add detail next.

The clay sculpture is covered in silicone and the plaster casting mold is being created

The sculpture is completely covered in plaster to create the casting mould.

The plaster moulding sections are prepared for the bronze casting. The separated pieces are carefully arranged in the workshop.

A large piece of the plaster moulding is laid carefully aside before the bronze casting is made. The inside of the mould is coated with a silicone solution to aid in the casting process. The plaster layer is about 10 cm thick.

The artist is looking at the details on the bronze statue in the workshop.

The Women's Public Art Program complements the Victorian Honour Roll of Women, which celebrates women's outstanding leadership and contributions to life in Victoria.

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