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MEDIA RELEASE | Larger than life artworks to celebrate Cooktown's Reconciliation Rocks

Installation of two larger-than-life sculptures that celebrate and commemorate the first recorded act of Reconciliation that took place in Waymburr (the area now known as Cooktown) at Reconciliation Rocks in 1770, is due to commence in coming weeks.

Queensland artist and sculptor, Braham Stevens worked closely with representatives of the Waymburr Warra people, of the Guugu Yimithirr Nation who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Cooktown sits, to share their perspective of the historically significant series of events that occurred between clan Elders and Captain James Cook in 1770. 

“Reconciliation is not about tearing down statues, but ensuring the Indigenous side of the story is accurately and meaningfully told, shared and commemorated,” said Cook Shire Mayor, Peter Scott.

Reconciliation Rocks Braham Stevens White Black Cockatoo

ABOVE: Artists impression of Braham Stevens' White Cockatoo/Black Cockatoo at the entrance to Reconciliation Rocks in Cooktown's Cultural Precinct 

“What took place at Reconciliation Rocks, is corroborated by the stories of the Waymburr Warra and the journals of the crew on the Endeavour. There is no hero or villain, but rather two leaders with the wisdom and insight to cultivate respect and trust despite their differences. It’s an uplifting and unifying example of reconciliation that can be celebrated inclusively by all Australians.”

The two artworks focus on the central story the Waymburr Warra Elder, referred to in Cook’s journals as ‘The Little Old Man’ who instigated the first recorded act of reconciliation, by approaching Cook and his crew with a broken spear while performing the Ngaala-ngun Daama – a traditional way of welcoming visitors to their land.

The entrance statement piece at the end of Furneaux Street entitled Black Cockatoo/White Cockatoo features a 6 metre-high dual feather form modelled on feathers from both a black, and white cockatoo that are totems of the Guugu Yimithirr peoples. The piece also features a central figure of the Elder carrying the broken spear while engaging in Ngaala-ngun Daama.

The second piece, at the southern end of the rocks is entitled Spirit of Reconciliation and features a 2.4 metre-high bust effigy to symbolize the Waymburr Warra Elder, looking towards Waalmbal Birri (Endeavour River) in the direction where Cook arrived and over the ancient rocks and the almost unchanged landscape.

“It gave me chills all over knowing these statues will be the first Bama statues placed on Waymburr/Cooktown bubu,” said Rebecca Powell, one of the Waymburr Warra Traditional Custodians who has been involved throughout the consultation process. “These pieces are an ideal representation of our story and how our community is striving to reconcile and move forward together. Thank you so much Braham and all who was involved.”

Reconciliation Rocks Braham Stevens Spirit of Reconciliation

ABOVE: Artists impression of Braham Stevens' Spirit of Reconciliation at the southern end of Reconciliation Rocks

Funded by the Australian Government’s Community Development Grants Program, the project is part of the Council’s on-going revitalisation of Cooktown’s Cultural Precinct that also includes installation of accessible pathways, amphitheatre-style seating around a natural performance space, and landscaping to complement and enhance the unique biodiversity of the area. 

Installation of the artworks is due to be complete by the end of March. The official opening of Reconciliation Rocks will feature as part of the Cooktown & Cape York Expo 2021: The Rising Tide from 11-20 June 2021.

For more information contact Cook Shire Council via email to mail@cook.qld.gov.au or by phoning 4082 0500

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10 Furneaux Street Cooktown, Qld 4895

Mail: PO Box 3 Cooktown, Qld 4895

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