We were engaged by Port of Brisbane to deliver an ‘arrival’ artwork in the forecourt of the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal. Designed by Arkhefield architects, BICT is a tourism gateway to the richness of our region, helping to showcase all that south-east Queensland has to offer, and become a vital pillar of Brisbane and Queensland’s tourism economy.
Acclaimed Brisbane-based Waanyi artist, Judy Watson, was commissioned for the project. Her imposing sculpture, ‘chiggil chiggil pa’ (2020), is a four-metre rusted steel dilly bag prominently situated in the arrival zone. The title, chiggil chiggil pa, means ‘freshwater flowing swiftly over rippled sands (a musical sound when spoken aloud)’ and was given to the work by Uncle Gheebelum Bob Anderson. The work references woven nets and bagsused by Aboriginal people of the Brisbane area, acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the site and their everyday fishing activities on the river and local saltwater waterways.
“This large vessel form is inspired by historical Aboriginal woven bags from this region that I have seen in overseas and national museum collections. My work is a form of cultural retrieval. The steel cut forms have been weathered, becoming a beautiful red ochre testament to Country and culture and history. It is a Messenger, declaring that this place where we live: Is, Was and Always will be Aboriginal Land and Waters.”
Like her celebrated commission for GOMA, ‘tow row,’ Judy’s work is deeply connected to concealed histories, the significance of objects and the power of memory and loss. On one side of the sculpture there is the map of Moreton Bay, including some of the islands and waterways such as the Brisbane River. Within the sculptures’ surface are pin pricked visual elements: zungun (dugong) rib bones, zungun (dugong) net needle, mud whelk shells and the navigational shipping channel of these waterways.
‘chiggil chiggil pa’ relays an important and significant story of local Aboriginal people and their culture, their fishing, harvesting and gathering of resources.