Council commissioned Frances Belle Parker and Urban Art Projects to create public art for our Aboriginal Art & Storytelling Project, the first major project for the Coast Walk Public Art Program. The project acknowledges and shares the stories of Northern Beaches Aboriginal people through a series of contemporary public artworks along the 36km Coast Walk, from Manly to Palm Beach.
This project includes works in three locations along the Coast Walk: Narrabeen Lagoon, Avalon (south) and Long Reef Headland.
Frances Belle Parker
Whale Songs, 2022
Whales are embedded in Aboriginal culture in many forms including dreamtime stories, and totem animals for various language groups. Sydney features many significant artwork sites depicting whales and the Northern Beaches is an area where whales have long been respected within the Aboriginal history of the coastline.
Singing in the whales has been a tradition practiced along the east coast of New South Wales involving gifted Aboriginal Elders singing to them, calling them in from the headland. I recall being told about an Aboriginal Aunty who possessed this gift, who would call and sing in these amazing creatures.
The artwork is comprised of cast bronze plaques installed along the Coast Walk. The stories on the plaques symbolise the 'singing-in' of the whales along the coastline of the Northern Beaches. The night sky is reflected through the mark-making and stars featured, and the coastline is depicted, acknowledging the bloodlines of the traditional owners of the Northern Beaches.
Frances Belle Parker has been a practising artist for the last 20 years, coming to prominence after winning the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre Blake Prize in 2000; she is the youngest ever winner and the first Aboriginal recipient in the prize’s history. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, undertaken art residencies in China and Andorra and worked on several public art projects, including her recent digital work Angwirri on the sails of the Sydney Opera House, on 26 January 2021.
She worked with public art and architectural design group UAP Australia, and independent curator Tess Allas, to realise this project.
Frances engaged with the local Aboriginal community to identify significant and relevant sites for storytelling through the artwork. The artist has significant family connections on the Northern Beaches. The works enrich Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people’s experience of the region without compromising environmentally fragile and culturally sensitive sites. This project helps connect people to the landscape, each other, and to past, present, and future.