Museum connects to land and sea with art and artefact

07 June 2021

Museum of Tropical Queensland has unveiled new artwork by local Indigenous artist Jumbo Prior and a display of objects from the former Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Centre (TATSICC) to complete its impressive foyer renovation.

Emerging Townsville artist, Bwgcolman, Birri-Gubba and Mamu man Jumbo Prior, was commissioned to create the original oil-on-canvas Connections to the land and sea. The work is transformed into a large-scale mural almost four metres high to line the stairway leading into the museum’s Great Gallery.

The artwork, which welcomes visitors on entry, represents the museum as a central meeting place – “the land and waterways that surround it and the families and tribes that are united to the land on which with museum sits”, the artist states. It also highlights connections with the museum over time and pays respect to the cultural diversity across the region.

Queensland Museum Network CEO Dr Jim Thompson said it was a rewarding collaboration that deepened connections with local communities across Townsville.

“Working with Jumbo and the TATSICC group has resulted in the museum being able to elevate local aboriginal cultures and stories emanating from North Queensland,” Dr Thompson said.

The talent of artist Jumbo Prior gained momentum with one of his elaborate and colorful designs featuring on the Toyota Cowboys 2021 NRL Indigenous Jersey.

“It has been fantastic to work with Museum of Tropical Queensland to develop this piece, and to showcase our local Indigenous stories for everyone to come and see, read and learn about.” Jumbo Prior said.

Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said the new display will help cultivate and share cultural stories from across North Queensland.

“Jumbo Prior, also known as Jesse James, has captured the essence of country and sea to help nurture a greater understanding and appreciation of First Nations connections, place and culture,” Minister Enoch said.

“This remarkable artwork provides a bold and colourful welcome to a collection of 121 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander historic and contemporary objects.    

“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to elevating First Nations arts as a priority in the delivery of Creative Together 2020-2030, a 10-year roadmap to renewing and transforming Queensland through arts, culture and creativity.

Together with the mural, sits a small display of objects from the TATSICC collection, to which the museum are now temporary custodians, while TATSICC finds a new home.

Assistant Curator, Anthropology, Sophie Price said the partnership formed between the museum and TATSICC has been exceptionally meaningful and enriching for both parties.

“As temporary custodians, we will care for the objects behind the scenes and we have put a selection of them on display so that visitors and the community can engage with them once again,” Ms Price said. 

Indigenous Arts and Culture Leader and TATSICC member Rosalind Sailor, said they feel secure knowing the objects were “in good hands” until they find a permanent home or are returned to their Traditional Owners.

The new mural and objects display sit adjacent to the museum’s Acknowledgement to Country panel that welcomes visitors and acknowledges the Wulgurukaba people, Traditional Owners of the land on which the museum stands, as well as neighbouring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Townsville region.

Museum of Tropical Queensland is part of the Queensland Museum Network and open 9:30am to 4pm daily (closed Good Friday, ANZAC Day, Christmas Day and Boxing Day).

Media Contact: Andrea Hughes

(07) 4726 0604 or 0497 347 117 andrea.hughes@qm.qld.gov.au