“Burra burawa birrung gili” (Eel above countless generations of starlight)

“Warramee mittigar goorrum burruk. Teeart-ti murra Daruga pemel. Teeart-ti murra ya pemel ngalaringi bubbuna. Mittigar gurrung burruck gneene da Daraga pemel” (Uncle James Carrol – Darug Elder, Knowledge Holder)

We acknowledge and pay respect to the people of the Darug nation. The Burramattagal are the traditional owners and custodians of the land where this project is situated.

In the heart of the city, service lanes are often forgotten spaces in the lexicon of place-making – and Phillip Lane in the Paramatta CBD suffered from this aesthetic neglect. City of Parramatta recognised a creative intervention could transform the space and held a design competition to find a way of revisioning the lane as a destination, rather than merely a trafficable, utilitarian void. Cundall partnered with Darug Elder & Knowledge Holder, Uncle James Carrol to imagine a dynamic lighting design and sculptural installation that would bring the space to life and act as a lodestone for social activation.

Cundall’s team listened to the stories and insights of Uncle James Carrol, Darug Traditional Owner/ Knowledge-Holder and Awakabal artist, Matthew Fellingham, about the relationship between the eel (burra) and the landscape, river, peoples, history, culture and spirit of the area. Out of this deep listening, the concept of ‘Burra burawa birrung gili’ (eel above countless generations of starlight) was developed.

The installation fuses elements of the past in the winding curves of the main Burra following the form of the Parramatta River. Burra stretches along the lane with its head toward the river to feed the Burra with spirit and life, and the small burras sleep in an infinity shape that align with and accompany the mother burra on her journey to the water.

Inset acrylic panels in a range of hues mirror the dishes of spices associated with newcomer cultures to the area and celebrates the richness and diversity of scents, tastes and experiences this multicultural area has become known for.

The sculptural form of mother Burra and offspring was created by local fabricators using traditional skills to give the mother Burra her dramatic, totemic identity. The sculptural form was installed using catenary supports for suspension to minimise additional materiality.

The coloured panels wash the building forms and pavement with shifting hues of light and shade during the day, and at night the embedded LEDs and light projection create an interplay of washes of illumination, water-like ripple effects and prismatic hues.

The light display also makes the lane less intimidating for pedestrians at night, by casting a glow of welcome and creating an energy of joy, wonder and delight. We used modelling to ensure the lighting meets relevant standards for safety, amenity and functionality removing the traditional street lighting.

As an artwork, it is an agent of transformation, both in terms of the space and socially, by fusing First Nations history and the multicultural present and creating a unique point of interest for locals and visitors alike.

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