Local culture celebrated in new Palm Island Bwgcolman Retail Centre

The newly completed Bwgcolman Retail Centre on Palm Island in North Queensland pays tribute to local Aboriginal culture through its eye-catching integrated facade artwork. Based on original artworks by three local artists, the facade captures the natural beauty of the island community.

Indigenous design studio Balarinji was engaged by A. Gabrielli Constructions to design an artwork concept that represents the two foremost natural features from Palm Island’s Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander culture, the ocean and the night sky.

The A. Gabrielli Constructions team were excited to have the opportunity to work with Balarinji. “It was a wonderful opportunity to bring together and promote a group of local artists from Palm Island and ensure that the building is reflective of the diverse values and beliefs of the Bwgcolman community,” said Adrian Gabrielli, Managing Director of A. Gabrielli Constructions.

Following an artist workshop facilitated by Balarinji, artwork from three local Palm Island artists were chosen to create the exterior art facade of the Centre.

‘Anemone’ by Agnes Wotton Jr

The ocean surrounding Palm Island is part of the Great Barrier Reef. The concept of Palm Island as Saltwater Country is strongly apparent with distinct differences from Freshwater Country. On the reef, sea life plays a significant part in local culture and stories.

‘Milky Way’ by Jessica Fraser

Palm Island is the Traditional Country of the Manbarra people who believe there was a supernatural called ‘Goin’ who lived in the Milky Way, or Kuling, and roamed the earth by night.

‘Turtle Dreaming’ by Patricia Kidner

Yangugan (the Manbarra word for turtle) resonates across the Palm Island community. The longneck turtle and the endangered green sea turtle are both represented in many stylised motifs on the island. The supply of green turtles was once considered to be almost inexhaustible, but no longer. From 1940-1962 an Indigenous commercial turtle fishery operated on the island.

Balarinji Managing Director, Ros Moriarty, said, “Aside from the facade being a beautiful piece of artwork, this project has brought the community together. The sea, sky and turtle stories reflect the rich cultural belonging that people on Palm Island share.”

“The art process gave local artists the chance to work on something larger scale and more publicly visible than they’d previously had the opportunity to be involved in. Our objective was to ensure the project gave the artists experience that would support their careers into the future,” Ms Moriarty added.

The Bwgcolman Retail Centre is the first stage in a three part retail precinct for the community which also includes plans for a supermarket, council offices and a tourist information centre/gallery space.

Through this project, a group of artists have come together to create the Palm Island Arts group, which successfully tendered on the creation of an art workshop and gallery in the new building with the backing of A. Gabrielli Constructions. They look forward to showcasing their work and culture to a broader audience with the launch of their website and gallery later this year.

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