Issue 18
Monday, 10 October 2016
Charles Darwin University
A bench seat featuring the artwork of Midpul (aka Prince of Wales) is unveiled during a ceremony with local Larrakia elders
A bench seat featuring the artwork of Midpul (aka Prince of Wales) is unveiled during a ceremony with local Larrakia elders

Indigenous artwork unveiled in ceremonial space

By Leanne Miles

The work of a senior Larrakia man and major Australian Indigenous artist has been carefully restored to feature as part of the ceremonial courtyard at Charles Darwin University’s Australian Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Education (ACIKE).

The four-metre-long ceremonial mural comprises 38 ceramic tiles hand-painted by Midpul (aka Prince of Wales) and has been incorporated into a large bench seat to form part of the rainbow serpent design bordering the ceremonial space.

Acting Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Leadership Wendy Ludwig unveiled the seat during a ceremony with local Larrakia elders, as a celebration of “UN International Day of the Older Persons”.

Ms Ludwig said the restoration of the artwork and its installation at CDU had not only revived the artwork but also gave visitors, students and staff access to a piece of unique Indigenous ceremonial history.

“Midpul emerged as an artist in the public domain when he was about 60 years old and the ceramic images bear testimony to Midpul’s lifetime of painting within the ceremonial context,” Ms Ludwig said. “His work is based on designs painted on to the bodies of performers in Larrakia rituals, which he adapted to paint in acrylic on canvas and other media.”

She said the placement of the seat, bordering the external dance space in the ACIKE courtyard, acknowledged the Larrakia as the traditional custodians of the lands on which the Casuarina campus and the city of Darwin were located.

In 2010 the university accepted the decommissioned work of ceramic tiles, painted by Midpul, as part of an earlier commission by the Darwin City Council for the Darwin Mall.

Although the decommissioned work had suffered damage, a team worked to restore tiles and incorporate each piece into the seat, and ensured the original integrity of the work was maintained.

Midpul, although not an over-prolific artist, is represented in every major public collection in Australia, including the Charles Darwin University Art Collection.

The Midpul bench seat is located in the forecourt of Blue Precinct, CDU Casuarina campus.