2021 Melbourne Art Trams: Jarra Karalinar Steel

Monday 4 October

Jarra Karalinar Steel’s rolling artwork, iilk (eel), is one of the six Melbourne Art Trams designed exclusively by First Peoples artists in 2021.

iilk (eel)

BY JARRA KARALINAR STEEL (BOONWURRUNG/WEMBA WEMBA PEOPLES)

Tram route: 48, 109

JARRA KARALINAR STEEL
"From a small child my mother would tell me stories of the iilk (eel) and their long Journey Cycles, as well as their importance as a food source for our people the Boonwurrung."

"I was always fascinated by the idea of them making their journey along Elizabeth Street which originally was a creek running from the Birrarung (Yarra River). Elizabeth Street was the main street in which our tram would enter the city when I was a child and teen, coming from Brunswick and North Melbourne and I’d often reflect on this story.

The reason for using the iilk is because I like the idea of them taking back and reclaiming their important place in what we call Melbourne today. I imagine them all traveling along our tram lines as part of their Journey Cycle.

This work I have included some personal icons: The wattle being my name Jarra Karalinar (wattle tree woman); the feathers being Bundjil (wedge tail eagle) and Waa (crow); some pattern design influenced by Kulin designs; and lastly my Walert Murrup (possum spirits) which are healing spirits.

I wanted to express my lifelong connection and love to this city of Melbourne and our trams. I was conceived in Richmond (my twin and I are IVF babies) and born at Queen Victoria Hospital. I’ve spent a majority of my life in Melbourne catching and riding trams, trams are my main transport to keep me connected and the sound they make would be the background to the soundtrack of my life."

Biography

Jarra Karalinar Steel is a multi-disciplinary artist known for her powerful emu engravings, poster art, large scale public installations, Digital/Augmented Reality Art, RAP artwork and commemorative signage. Karalinar Steel is of Boonwurrung, Wemba Wemba, English and Scottish descent. Karalinar Steel completed her Master of Arts (Art in Public Space) from RMIT in 2020. Karalinar Steel is a passionate advocate/consultant for Self-Representation of Kulin and Victorian First Peoples Art and culture and making sure it is kept alive and thriving.

2021 Melbourne Art Trams

The place now known as Melbourne is a city built on the lands of the Kulin Nation peoples; Traditional Owners who continue to maintain deep connections to their country, kin and waterways that have existed for tens of thousands of years.

In 2021, for the first time, each Melbourne Art Tram has been designed by a First Peoples artist. As a collective of moving artworks all six share with us the strength and beauty of creative cultural expression and the interwoven connections and continuous cultures of First Peoples in Victoria. Below you'll find links to the work of each contributing artist, as well as further reading on the curation and selection process undertaken by RISING:

IMAGES: JAMES MORGAN

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