ARTS, feature -

A welcome to country with no beginning, middle or end

The Barangaroo Delivery Authority in Sydney has unveiled a new video installation that reimagines a welcome to country.

Wellama, a Gadigal word meaning ‘to come back,’ was commissioned by the Authority for the entrance to the Cutaway at Barangaroo Reserve.

The installation stands at four by eight metres and was created by artists Nik Lachajczak and Alison Page.

According to the artists, the artwork is a digital expression of Indigenous Australians’ connection to homelands and how the protocols that maintain this connection are central to identity for all Indigenous Australians.

On a continuous 10-minute loop to reflect the infinite nature of time, the video artwork has no beginning, middle or end.

Wellama Indigenous Welcome to Country
A still from contemporary welcome to country installation, Wellama. Photo courtesy of Alison Page and Nik Lachajczak.

The contemporary film piece was created to strengthen the meaning of a welcome to country and better people’s understanding of the traditional welcome.

The film’s central narrative is based around Barangaroo and an Eora fisherwoman.

Older women guide the young girl through her transition into womanhood, with the traditional ceremony moving into a modern Sydney.

In both places, the older woman remains to teach the young girl traditional medicine practices.

This acknowledges both the breadth and depth of traditional knowledge.

“Even if Sydney has piles of concrete and glass over the earth, it’s really important that we dig through those layers and tell those stories and really celebrate the identity we had for 65 thousand years before colonisation,” Ms Page said.

“It’s about our culture coming back to the surface and being amplified again after years of being quite dormant for a long time.”

Early paintings of Eora people on Sydney Harbour are among the iconic works that were the inspiration behind Wellama.

Ms Page and Mr Lachajczak wanted to recreate scenes from the paintings to bring them to life for a contemporary audience.

Wellama Producer Jade Christian said she and the artists are thrilled to be displaying the installation at Barangaroo.

“This important and exciting commission at Barangaroo Reserve harnesses new media and technology to deliver a powerful, traditional protocol, in a new and compelling form,” Ms Christian said.

“Works such as Wellama honour the site’s First Nations heritage and it is our hope that this work inspires the imaginations of the millions who visit Barangaroo Reserve and connects them with the heartbeat of the country itself.”

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