A one-of-a-kind sculpture will be unveiled in the Shire of Plantagenet that unites Indigenous knowledge and western science to tell the story of the region’s ecological evolution.
The Genestreams Sculpture Project is a creative concept developed by Noongar Elder Carol Pettersen and artist Ben Beeton designed to inspire ecological conservation in the Great Southern region.
Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists and environmental groups were invited to work on the sculpture.
The 3.5m installation symbolises an evolutionary tree where viewers can admire the artwork from outside, or they can step within the sculpture itself.
One side of the sculpture depicts local Indigenous artworks that represent the stories of significant plants and wildlife from the region.
The other side of the sculpture features scientifically-informed natural history art that represents the ecology, geology, and history of the area.
The base of the sculpture represents an intricate geological time scale of the Great Southern through a series of concentric circles.
Sculpture inspired by Indigenous song lines
Beeton said the design concept was derived from Dr Noel Nannup’s map of song lines of the south west, which connects important sites and trails across the region.
“Aunty Carol said it would be great if there was some way the song lines could be connected together through some type of public art program which would also talk about conservation,” he said.
“We had the idea that the art could be double side printed onto the aluminium. We would have the art from the traditional owners on one side and the natural history art on the other side.
“I don’t know of a public artwork anywhere in the world where you can step inside an evolutionary tree of the region.”
Collaborative effort by local artists
The sculpture was designed by Beeton and crafted by local artist Mark Hewson, with research and creative input from Gary Muir, scientific illustrator Mali Moir, Jane Thompson and artist Jenny Wilson.
The interactive sculpture is a part of the newly developed ‘Heartlands Journeys’ trial developed by the Gondwana Link to encourage visitors to the region.
An online learning component will be launched at the opening of the Genestreams sculpture to help visitors appreciate the globally significant biodiversity of the Great Southern.
Gondwana Link’s Keith Bradly said the sculpture will serve as a visual reminder of not only the region’s ecology but also the impressive restoration and land care work being achieved.
“We’ve been working for a while on how we can help people of the Great Southern realise that we really do live in one of the most important parts of the world, biologically,” he said.
“People visit the Stirling Ranges, but do they know or appreciate how they got there, why they are so important, why you can find beach ripples in the sand at the top of Bluff Knoll?
“I think there is just enormous potential to bring benefits to the communities by holding visitors longer, by using the richness of the place but also the great work underway.”
The Great Southern Genestreams sculpture will be the first of a series of public artworks planned to be installed at ecologically and culturally significant communities around the country.
“The idea is that in each location we would work with the traditional owners of the region to feature their art,” Beeton said.
The Genestreams sculpture will be unveiled at the Twin Creeks Community Conservation Reserve in the Porongurups on May 29 at 1pm.