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‘That’s magic’ - Decoding Noongar Place Names in Melville

‘That’s magic’ - Decoding Noongar Place Names in Melville
By Community Arts Network
27 September 2022

Weaving together a process driven framework with a Noongar-led community arts approach, Place Names Melville has been an incredible journey of reconciliation and Noongar language revival since its beginnings in April.

Decoding Noongar placenames is at the heart of the Place Names project. In Melville, community participants were immersed in the process, learning the decoding methodology with the collective knowledge and guidance of Len Collard, Geri Hayden and other Noongar Elders.

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Over the weeks, three areas within the City of Melville - Goolugatup, Willagee and Jenalup (Blackwall Reach) - were explored through a cultural mapping process and an interplay of mark making and collage artworks inspired by walks on country.

Led by community artists Natalie Scholtz and Sandy McKendrick, our Place Names Melville participants used ink and charcoal mark making techniques to respond to natural materials collected on country. They then developed these responses with layers of acrylic paint, pencil, thread, natural materials and additional marks. Creative expression of country was further explored through poetry led by artist Nandi Chinna. Transpiring into a series of abstract artworks capturing the essence of these places - a magnificent reflection of the community’s strong connection to boodjar.

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Participants also recorded natural soundscapes and sensory videos at each site under the guidance of Hugh Sando. When displayed together, the seamless connection between video footage and collage works was profound, sparking a common remark among the community of participants - ‘that’s magic’.

Place Names Melville will culminate in an exhibition of artworks created by the project’s participants, responding to and celebrating these places and their traditional Aboriginal names.

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