Tides Swan River Stories

As part of the Australian Heritage Festival, the City of Perth is exploring the Derbarl Yerrigan (Swan River) from the Nyoongar Dreamtime to the present day.

Taking place from 18 April on the ground floor of Council House, the exhibition explores how the Derbarl Yerrigan winds through our past, present and future as a different experience for all the people who live, work or play around it.

Combining artist Alan Muller’s paintings with Nyoongar works from the City of Perth’s Cultural Collection, this unique heritage exhibition presents moments in Perth’s past to spark curiosity and conversation.

“Collaborating with the Traditional Owners has helped the City to learn about the history and culture of Aboriginal peoples as we strive for the common goal of reconciliation,” Chair Commissioner Eric Lumsden said.

Tides: Paintings of Derbarl Yerrigan Swan River is Mr Muller’s fifth exhibition which seeks to acknowledge our Traditional Owners, the Whadjuk People of the Perth coastal plain.

“Rivers are life. These paintings reimagine the physical, historic and spiritual heart of Perth – Derbarl Yerrigan Swan River as the river and land of the Whadjuk Nyoongar people before the 1829 foundation of Perth and English settlement 190 years ago,” Mr Muller said.

“My paintings depict the river and surrounding landscapes as Whadjuk Country before English settlement and tell an ancient story of the Whadjuk people who managed the Perth coastal plain like a vast estate over many thousands of years.”

The exhibition will feature First Contact, a work on paper by talented Nyoongar printmaker Laurel Nannup, depicting the arrival of Europeans to Australia.

“Seeing the boats arriving, the Nyoongar people would have thought it was the ancestors coming from the sea back to shore,” Laurel Nannup said.

In 2016, Laurel worked with UAP and FORM to transform the artwork into a five-metre-tall cast-aluminium public sculpture in Elizabeth Quay.

Local Nyoongar artist Deborah Bonar will also have her work Maali displayed in the exhibition as part of the City’s Cultural Collections.

The City of Perth is the custodian of significant historical and contemporary collections of art, artefacts and reference materials. Aboriginal people, their voices and stories are integral to the Cultural Collections.

Supporting Tides: Swan River Stories aligns with the City’s Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan, which focuses on building positive awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, particularly Nyoongar cultures.

Tides: Swan River Stories will be open every day from 18 April to 19 May as part of the Australian Heritage Festival, including weekends and public holidays (weekdays 9am to 5pm; weekends and holidays 10am to 4pm). Following this, the exhibition will continue weekdays until 21 June.

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