• Glenice Grieve - Vincent Lingiari's Descendant; Willi Sirks, Lola, Anna Maria,CR Dominic Wy Kanak - Bondi Councillor, Peter Smith Mum Shirl's Grandson. (supplied)Source: supplied
A mural that honours five prominent Indigenous human rights activists located in Sydney's famous Bondi Beach has sparked a wave of controversy.
By
Laura Morelli

Source:
NITV News
25 Nov 2016 - 11:25 AM  UPDATED 29 Nov 2016 - 11:29 AM

These white handprints are the significant marks of remote Indigenous students from Goodooga in New South Wales.

It was the very first time the kids ever saw the ocean, and it happened to be at one of Australia's most popular tourist destinations of Bondi Beach. Here they were able to celebrate Reconciliation Week, Harmony Day and Close the Gap Day in 2013 with the local Indigenous community.

Wiradjuri man and Aboriginal artist, Paul Davis was commissioned to paint the mural and he believes the mural, which is titled 'From Little Things Big Things Grow,' represents the young school kids blossoming into adulthood. 

"Wouldn't it be nice if you came down here, you know in 20 to 30 or whatever many years in the future and you could show your children that you left your mark, made your print."

The mural was commissioned by the Uniting Church and was created to celebrate Indigenous human rights activists in a public space for locals and tourists to appreciate and remember Australian history. 

Waverley Greens councillor Dominic Wy Kanak says this mural is truly one of a kind."

"This piece is so unique - I don't think there's any piece in Australian public art that recognizes the elders in this way."

From communities of the blonde Bondi sand to the raw red dessert of uluru - the mural represents more than just those in its country.

"It represents reconciliation; it represents strong pieces of the social justice struggle in our movement after invasion and its part of our ongoing fight for the recognition of sovereignty," Mr Wy Kanak said. 

Despite being coloured with meaning, the mural is set to be torn down this year.

Paul Davis, the artist who spent months working on this art piece says he thought this would be here to stay, a legacy that would carry on the true meaning of Indigenous heroism. 

"I'm very disgruntled, very disappointed and very understandably taken aback by a development of any given nature," he said.

"We have such an attractive mural, an appropriate mural and something so delivered to the local community in such a prominent are and that's really culturally appropriate, socially appropriate and basically a statement in history, on history and ongoing history."

Wayside Chapel announced they were going under several renovations and were going to replace the mural with a glass window. But after peaceful community protests almost every weekend since the announcement, they've decided they're going to commission Aboriginal locals to paint an entirely new mural. 

Bondi local Dominic Wy Kanak says residents are disappointed to hear that wayside now wants to talk about another artwork.

"We think it's unfair to be put in a position where it's either or because that means they still don't truly understand the significance of the figures and the depiction of the artwork they've got," he said.

"We're disappointed and we think they don't show any cultural understanding by pushing on getting rid of this mural."

Wayside has deemed the mural as culturally inappropriate because it was created without approval of those depicted on it. But family members dispute that claim and the locals say the mural should stay.

Rachel Perkins gave approval for their father to be depicted in the mural and said it was an “honour” to see her father depicted in the mural.

Peter Smith, grandson of Mum Shirl Smith, also gave the thumbs up to having the mural represent his ancestor.

Maurie Ryan, grandson of Vincent Lingiari, said that by taking this mural down they are tearing down a part of their culture. 

"It's a disgrace that they would even consider removing this historical piece of art, it's there to be looked at not demolished."

"People talk about black arm band history, look we're getting into a white blindfold history here when we hide this sort of thing."

Lilon Bandler, daughter of Faith Bandler, added her name to the online petition to save the mural, which now claims well over 1000 signatures.

The former minister at Chapel by the sea, Reverend John Queripel says we need to work together as a community to fight for justice and protect what's important to us. 

"This needs to be remembered, people talk about black arm band history, look we're getting into a white blindfold history here when we hide this sort of thing and it's a disgrace," he said. 

"These people here were five out of many other Indigenous people, who resisted that and did great things and now were going to cover it, in fact destroy it...

This is so important here In this place of Bondi because it’s the center of tourism in Australia."

So many tourists come here, let them see this and understand this story, it’s so important that this mural be retained."

The mural has already been nominated to be State Heritage listed.

Paul Davis says he believes his work should be respected and protected.

"As an artist, I like to think that there are protocols that are respected and even in the essence of the welcome to country ceremony all that, the respect we have for the warriors past and present that adds merit to the aspects of the importance of those roles, in their roles within their lifetime." 

The art student studying at Eora College says the mural offers so much more than just a pretty picture. 

"When you look at the essence of the mural from the heart of Australia to the shores I think the mural adds to itself visually, as a visual expression," he said. 

"The bottom line is...from little things big things grow."

RELATED ARTICLE
"Save Our Bondi Indigenous Mural": the fight for visibility
On one of the busiest spots in Australia, Bondi’s iconic beach, there’s a wall with a colourful mural. The social justice mural on Bondi's Wayside Chapel portrays five Aboriginal activists who initiated significant change in our history and continue to inspire Australians.