Ancient astronomy depicted in Yamaji mosaics shaped like emu eggs for Geraldton Foreshore History, art and science comes together

Later this year colourful ‘emu eggs’ will make an appearance at the Geraldton Foreshore when local Yamaji artists’ two-dimensional artwork drawn from the night skies is transformed into three dimensional sculpted emu eggs.

The inspiration draws from indigenous astronomy. Indigenous Australians saw different shapes and designs in the night sky, such as the Emu and the Seven Sisters and the Hunter, passing knowledge through the centuries.

Yamaji Arts has partnered with the City to produce and install the sculpture. The sculpture evolved from the interpretation of two paintings - The Emu in the Sky by Margaret Whitehurst (Wajarri) and The Seven Sisters and the Hunter by Barbara Merritt (Badimaya), selected for their aesthetic, cultural and historical merits.

The paintings were exhibited at the Geraldton Regional Art Gallery as part of the 2009 Ilgarijiri Exhibition, a collection of works that eventuated from a cultural exchange between Yamaji artists and International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) scientists from Curtin University participating in the Square Kilometre Array Project ( in the Murchison.

Professor Steven Tingay, from the Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy - the Director of the international Murchison Widefield Array (MWA: - was the key driver for ensuring engagement with the Aboriginal community and was instrumental in getting the Ilgarijiri concept off the ground.

”The Ilgarijiri has been a fantastic collaboration between the Yamaji artists and our astronomers that has been going strong for the last four years.  We have seen the Ilgarijiri exhibition travel around Australia, South Africa, the USA and Europe.  It is wonderful to see part of the Ilgarijiri work take pride of place on the Geraldton foreshore and I hope we can continue our collaboration for many years yet”, said Prof. Tingay.

A cultural exchange held at Boolardy Station in the Murchison, four years ago in March 2009, brought together stories of the world’s oldest continuous cultural understanding of the sky, with scientists who are using state-of-the-art astronomy technology.  This was the basis for the Ilgarijiri project.

Funding of the project has been provided by the following organisations, the City of Greater Geraldton, Lotterywest, CSIRO, School of Indigenous Study and Australasian SKA Industry Consortium (ASKAIC).  Yamaji Arts received funding from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research.

Yamaji Arts selected Queensland design company, Urban Art Projects (UAP), to work with the artists because of their proven ability and respect for Aboriginal intellectual property rights.

Yamaji Art Centre and Business Manager, Allison Yearwood, said UAP was selected for their ability to work with integrity through the interpretation of Aboriginal artwork for the public space.

“The project has been endorsed by Mara Arts Aboriginal Corporation (Yamaji Art), the Public Arts Advisory Committee, MAOA, community elders and arts industry specialists,” she said.

The final artwork will involve eight hemispherical objects about one and a half metres in diameter with the horizontal surface covered in colourful tile mosaic.

Mayor said the sculpture will enhance cultural appreciation and celebration of the area’s rich indigenous heritage.

“The City is delighted this collaboration with Yamaji artists has resulted in such a stunning piece of public art. We acknowledge the effort and creativity of Yamaji Art as the peak body for local Indigenous artists in achieving such a stunning outcome,” he said.

“The City’s funding of this artwork aligns with the State Government’s Percent for Art program where the City has utilised a portion of the foreshore project costs to fund and install public art such as this, on the foreshore.”

Community support included endorsement for the work from Simon Forrest, Associate Professor and Director of the Curtin Centre for Aboriginal Studies.

“The work will also raise awareness, educate, and communicate Indigenous cultural knowledge to a non-Indigenous audience that includes local residents of the Mid West, domestic and international visitors to the Geraldton Foreshore and help to increase the visibility of Indigenous culture in the Yamaji region on a premiere site,” he said.

It is anticipated site works will begin in late March.

Jason Smith

Founder of Everything Geraldton, Everything Mandurah, & Everything Perth. Law Student. Father, Husband, Bitcoin, Cigars.