Bungambrawatha connects people to the Murray River as an ancient site that continues as an important place in the present.
Bungambrawatha is the Wiradjuri word for this place. Located at the entrance of the Riverside Precinct, Bungambrawatha is a landmark sculpture by the internationally recognised and locally raised artist Marley Dawson.
Bungambrawatha connects people to the Murray River as an ancient site that continues as an important place in the present. Reclaimed from the sands of the river, the redgums are aged from 6400 to 12000 years, according to carbon dating reports from Australian National University. Facing the river, visitors would see the main tree hover above the ground connecting the land, water and sky.
The artwork is a place for people to meet, prompting a consideration of the natural and human history of the site. The locality of materials alludes to the river, which has played a crucial role to the evolution of the Albury area. From the same river flood plain are the trees and sand embedded in the base. The perimeter of the sculpture features grasses and small plants endemic to the area. Other sections of reclaimed trees are 'submerged' in the sand referencing the origin of the material while creating seating areas.
“Growing up on the Murray River and spending countless summers at Norieul Park, I have respect for the site as a significant place to the people of this area. I acknowledge Wiradjuri custodianship of this Country. I recognise the impact of colonisation and of more recent human interventions in terms of management of the Murray Darling Basin system, sand mining, tourism and watersports. The site is under constant pressure from competing interests but continues to inform the identity of this area. The Murray River is a critical meeting point and source of life. Bungambrawatha seeks to acknowledge this significance.” — Marley Dawson
Bungambrawatha invites us to contemplate what was, is, and can be, on this site. As the river has flowed through the flood plain for millennia, it has been constantly evolving and changing. Throughout this process, mighty river redgums have grown by the side of the river to hundreds of years of age. The river slowly erodes the banks and claims the trees which are then buried in thousands of years of sand.
The reclamation of the trees that have been waste products of sand mining speaks to human intervention and the alteration of the natural environment through extractive processes. The trees would have likely remained interred if the mining had not taken place. When humans intervene in the land, how can the land and the history it holds continue to be honoured?
Marley Dawson is an internationally recognised local artist, raised in Albury and who currently lives in Canberra. He is of Scottish, English, Irish, Mauritian (African, French) and Jewish descent with his ancestors first arriving in Australia as convicts. Dawson has exhibited extensively across Australia and the United States.
He is known for work that is connected to and tells the stories of place using materials and processes that are accessible and recognisable. His work celebrates sculpture as a deeply human activity, a way of connecting people to their histories and imagining their future through a connection to the present. His work is often handmade and responsive to the tradition of the artist as maker.