Last week I visited Napoleons Primary School in regional Victoria to make some lotus flowers, which were to be incorporated into a Blessing of the Ground ceremony at Len Frazer Reserve – the site for the future Chinese monument, public art initiative of the City of Ballarat being designed by John Young.
The monument is due to be installed in November this year, and recognises the presence in, and contribution to, Ballarat by the Chinese population. The Chinese originally arrived in Ballarat during the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s and 60s, and though sojourners – meaning they had every intention of going back to their homeland – many stayed on in Ballarat and other parts of Australia. China at the time was a country of feuding, famine and poverty especially in the south, which is from where many of the sojourners travelled – to find their fortune and return to help their families.
Napoleons Primary school is a small regional with about eighty children, and each child present on the day made a lotus flower, from prep through to grade six. We used air dry terracotta clay for the project, so no firing was required. The children enjoyed the tactile opportunity afforded by clay – which, in my experience, most kids do!
At the end of the day I took all the flowers back to my studio to dry and then spray painted them in white, gold and red – lucky colours for the Chinese. they were installed in a circle on the morning of the ceremony in front of where the speakers would be standing. the speakers included the City of Ballarat Mayor, an emeritus professor from Sovereign Hill, the artist John Young, and the owner of the Golden Crown restaurant. The Golden Crown restaurant is built on the site of a historic Chinese eating house highly frequented during the gold rush, and indeed this is why the monument is being erected in Len Frazer Reserve – because there was a large conclave of Chinese camps, eateries and temples along Main Road.
As part of the celebrations I also made four lotus flowers – one for each speaker. I made the flowers from Magiclay, an air dry paperclay. I had never used this material before and it was very different in texture and feel to what I usually use. Initially it was very sticky – it stuck to the table, the rolling pin, the knife, to me – I almost gave up! But then the hair dryer saved me. Once I eliminated the ‘sticky’ factor it was much easier to control, though I still didn’t use a knife to cut it – I used scissors! Once dry I spray painted the flowers gold.
The ceremony was held on Sunday morning in conjunction with Harmony Day celebrations in Camp St, Ballarat (Harmony Day was 21st March), and went over well with lots of people in attendance despite the cool morning – the highlight being the Chinese dragon – in my opinion.
Also a big thanks to the Golden Crown restaurant who provided a delicious yum cha after the ceremony.
Here are some more pics of the morning