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Wurreka means “to speak” in Wemba Wemba.
Wurreka, the etched zinc wall by Judy Watson, spans the north wall of Birrarung Gallery and surrounds the entry to First Peoples.
In designing Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, the architects realised the potential of the long, curved interior wall for a powerful work of art. The museum held a competition to select a design for the wall. The winning proposal came from Waanyi artist Judy Watson from Queensland.
Judy worked collaboratively with local communitites and artists in developing the design for the zinc wall. In 1999, she travelled around Victoria talking to community members, viewing landscapes and visiting key Aboriginal cultural sites. She also examined objects in the care of the museum.
Community members visited the project at the Australian Print Workshop and suggested symbols and objects for inclusion. The work thus developed in an organic fashion over several months – a process Judy called 'an ongoing conversation'. A total of 74 panels with etched designs were produced, each reflecting imagery from Aboriginal cultural heritage and landscapes of Victoria.
"I hope that Wurreka will be a 'learning wall' and a resource for people, particularly children, wanting to learn more about Victoria's Aboriginal culture. I want the work to have a fluid, dreamlike quality; objects will be floating across the panels as though on the edge of memory. It is about survival, resilience, resistance and strength. Being an Aboriginal person from another Country (north-western Queensland), I was respectful of using this material. There was an inherent generosity in this sharing of culture." – Judy Watson, 1999