Museums & Galleries Qld

Fiona Foley – M&GSQ State Conference Keynote Speaker; Delegate Walk Bluewater Trail Public Art

Posted on: 8 June 2011

At M&GSQ’s forthcoming State Conference in Mackay from 11-13 August, Mackay Regional Council and Artspace Mackay will proudly present the community launch of one of the most significant public art developments in Australia:  Fiona Foley’s six public art works for Mackay’s Bluewater Trail.

Last year I had the opportunity at an M&GSQ art+place regional workshop, to hear Fiona Foley talk about the process of development of these works – including the extensive consultation she undertook with the local Indigenous communities and Mackay South Sea Islander communities to research the stories of place that these works tell. The next day Eliza Tee,  Senior Program Officer, Public Art, art+place, Arts Queensland and I had the chance to visit some of the 6 public artworks that were already in situ on Bluewater Quay.

Sugar Cubes (2009) made a powerful impression on me as an example of public art used to convey contentious histories right at the spot they played out. This sculpture of aluminium sugar cubes stands beside the Pioneer River on the site where blackbirded and indentured South Sea Islanders were brought ashore to work on the sugar plantations. Their thumb prints were taken for identification in local records. Descendents of these South Sea Islanders volunteered their thumb prints to Fiona to add to the sugar cubes that are also marked with the names of the ships that transported the Islanders to the Mackay sugar industry.

YUWI (2009), pictured here with Eliza Tee demonstrating the scale, names local Aboriginal people and their lands in two metre high red letters. We also found the Mangrove Cap (2009) along the Sandfly Creek Environmental Reserve and ever since I have scoured the beaches of Burleigh Heads for the flotsam of the mangrove pods/seeds? that I confess I had never noticed before.

For more information on the Bluewater Trail Public Art, visit

Fiona Foley will be a keynote speaker at M&GSQ’s State Conference in Mackay 11-13 August in the plenary session Agents of Change and Challenging Stories and again at the Community Launch of the Bluewater Trail Public Art. A delegate walk of the Bluewater Trail Public Art is a feature of the conference program.

Ann Baillie


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