Judy Watson


Conceived as sentinels to watch over and protect the campus, the nine steel-fabricated feathers comprising yara honour the Kaurna Ancestor Spirit Tjilbruke – the glossy ibis – and pay tribute to the traditional owners of the land on which Flinders University was founded.   The plume-like forms located across the plaza are linked by strings of poetic text gifted by Kaurna Elder Uncle Lewis Yerloburka O’Brien.

Purlirna kardlarna ngadluku miyurnaku yaintya tikkiarna.

Wardlipari is the homeriver in the Milky Way.

The stars are the fires of the people living there.

Yurarlu yurakauwi trruku-ana padninthi Wardlipari .

Yurakauwi the rainbow serpent goes into the dark spots in the Milky Way.

Ngaiyirda karralika kawingka tikainga yara kumarninthi.  

When the outer world and the sky connect with the water the two become one.

Reaching upward and evoking the meeting of earth and sky expressed in the text, the feathers also recognise the legacy of the University’s namesake Matthew Flinders, as seen in the maps of the South Australian coastline charted by the navigator and applied in the treatment of the work. These maps, made aboard The Investigator (1801-1803), are overlaid with Kaurna words as a gesture to the layering of history and cultural memory at this site. When viewed as quills, the feathers are also emblems of scholarship and knowledge, reflecting the University’s role in teaching, learning and research.

yara, the title of the work, refers to Kaurna ideas of reciprocity and ‘two way’ learning that takes place in a shared space.

Judy Watson is an internationally acclaimed Aboriginal Australian artist from the Waanyi language group of north-west Queensland.  The work, fabricated by Urban Art Projects, was created in consultation with Uncle Lewis, Flinders students and staff through Yunggorendi First Nations Centre, and the hub’s Art Advisory Panel.  The artist gratefully acknowledges the input of those directly involved in the work’s development and installation on site.

Judy Watson, yara, 2016, mixed media installation, courtesy the artist, Photography: Peter Barnes

Flinders University
Hub & Plaza
Sturt Road
Bedford Park | SA | 5042