Goldberg Aberline Studio in collaboration with Graham Toomey

Saltwater Country

It shines a light on the rich history and ongoing cultural spirit of Indigneous people on Sydney Harbour. Hundreds of generations have walked through this land, from grandmothers to warriors and families ...can you feel the presence of their spirit?
Saltwater Country

About Goldberg Aberline Studio - GAS and Graham Toomey

Saltwater Country is a collaborative artwork between Goldberg Aberline Studio - GAS and Graham Toomey, an Indigneous artist of the Wurrumunga Clan of the Wiradjuri nation and the Wongaibon nation. In a unique co-design process, which involved an exchange of stories and ideas during drawing sessions, a series of lanterns were designed that represent the spirit of the Gadigal clan - the Saltwater people.

Artist Statement - Saltwater Country, 2021, Kendall Lane

Saltwater Country is a collaborative artwork between Goldberg Aberline Studio (GAS) and Graham Toomey, an Indigenous artist of the Wurrumunga Clan of the Wiradjuri nation and the Wongaibon nation. GAS who are based in Sydney and have an international practice, are best known for their unique fabric based sculptural works.

The result of unique co-design, with exchanges of stories and ideas, a series of lanterns were designed that represent the spirit of the Gadi people, Saltwater people. The artworks were designed by hand and then printed on a new textile created from 100% recycled PET drinking bottles. The lanterns are illuminated from within, and are very light - made with strong fibre-glass and aluminium rods.

This work shines a light on the rich history and ongoing cultural spirit of Aboriginal people on Sydney Harbour. The Rocks / Tallawoladah area holds rich culture and history that reaches back tens of thousands of years, reflecting the oldest, ongoing, living culture in the world. Hundreds of generations have walked on this land, from grandmothers to warriors and families....can you feel the presence of their spirit?

Saltwater Country illuminates this very real presence and the endurance of First Nations culture.

“Country is the heart. Country shares its spirit with us which provides the air, energy and spirit for our lives. Country means creators, ancestors, family, belonging, connection, cultural knowledge, stories and our thoughts and feelings in everyday life. This beautiful harbour has been our home for tens of thousands of years.” Graham Toomey

The themes of the lanterns are:
Helping us all walk through the dark. Lanterns provide light and therefore life. Our sun, fire and the moon also give us light. We have always gathered at night and lit fires. We do this to follow cultural lore, protocols, practices, customs, healing, while importantly connecting to the spirit of our creators, ancestors and to Country. Fires are a powerful and spiritual beacon which protects, comforts and heal us.

The fire is the heart of community – ceremonies, entertainment, dancing, body decoration while singing around fires and sharing and learning culture and stories.

We honour and respect women's roles on Saltwater country. Women are the gatherers of fish and dry native foods, they are the carers and nurturers of the family. Women used nets made from bark and plants while their fishing lines were made of hooks carved from turtle shells. Women also created clothing using fur from animals and created baskets from native plants.

We honour and respect the men’s roles. Men were the protectors... of the family, women and children and keepers of cultural knowledge. Men hunted for food and made stone tools, spears, boomerangs and other tools used for daily life. Men also created art, documen7ng sacred places, cultural knowledge and stories.

We lived in, worked and protected Nature and its fresh water. Native plants which are our food and medicinal source, they also are colourful and beautiful. The beautiful Golden Wattles leaves are used with water to bathe and clean children and families. The beautiful Lilly Pillies are used as medicines for women during pregnancy and for birthing. As the 8 seasons evolved throughout the year, we adapted and responded to the changes as the means for survival.

There are many creation stories and beliefs that differ around the country. On Saltwater Country belonging to the Gadi clan, the ancient creation story of the whale and its role in the creation of the harbour is one. The Emu constellation which consumes the milky way, is a dreaming story that captures time and place while also symbolising the birth of emus.

Discover other art installations in The Rocks