As proud Yaegl artist Frances Belle Parker stood alongside her family and watched her latest artwork, titled Angwirri, grace the iconic sails of the Sydney Opera House before sunrise on January 26, her husband Mason turned to their children Olivia, 9, and Atticus, 5, and told them the occasion was “a pretty big deal” for their mum.
An aspiring artist herself, Olivia looked at the beautifully illuminated harbourside landmark and said when she’s an adult, she can have her mermaid drawing on it as well.
“It was amazing to have my family with me and it was a great show and tell story for the kids to share at school,” Ms Parker said good naturedly.
Ms Parker’s artistic career came to prominence in 2000 when she became the first Indigenous recipient of the prestigious Blake Prize.
Recommended to the Australia Day Council to create an artwork to feature on one of Australia’s most famous landmarks, an experience she describes as “symbolic, special and very humbling for an artist from Maclean”, Ms Parker said being presented with an opportunity to tell a story which could be appreciated by the rest of Australia was extremely gratifying.
Despite having less than two months to create an artwork which matched the brief, Ms Parker knew the message she wanted to share on Australia’s biggest canvas.
Angwirri, which means “start to speak” or “begin to talk” in Yaygirr language, was inspired by her desire to promote conversation in making all Australians aware of how pertinent Aboriginal culture is in our nation.
It features the colours of the Australian landscape and coastline.
The circle markings depict the 250+ Indigenous language groups throughout Australia and the linear marks represent the 200 Nationalities that call Australia home.
Ms Parker chose to create the stunning artwork digitally after treating herself to an iPad Pro which allowed her to use the procreate drawing app to bring her vision to life and draw it to the right size which she revealed was much easier.
“I could do it all layer by layer,” she said.
“It was also an easier way for the artwork to be transferred.”
After a sneak peek the night before to ensure everything was in place, Ms Parker and her family viewed the official projection of Angwirri onto the Sydney Opera House from the control room of the Sydney Cove Overseas Passenger Terminal.
Olivia and Atticus were especially excited when they were invited to call “ready, set, go” prior to the lights being turned on.
“They loved it,” Ms Parker said.
Ms Parker previously had her artwork projected on the Sydney Opera House in 2017 as part of a spectacular light show featuring Indigenous artists called Badu Gili, meaning “water light” in the language of the Gadigal people, the traditional owners of Bennelong Point where the famous landmark now sits.
From the Newsroom