Supersized version of Aboriginal painter’s work appears on Paris rooftop

Seeing a piece of her art reproduced on a giant scale on the roof of a Paris art gallery brought tears to the eyes of Australian Aboriginal artist Lena Nyadbi. 

Nyadbi’s charcoal and white ochre piece, Dayiwul Lirlmim (‘Barramundi Scales’), has been painted onto the roof of the prestigious Musée du quai Branly in Paris, France. The 700 sq metre replica can only be viewed fully from the top of the Eiffel Tower – which receives more than seven million visitors each year – or from space. 

“I’m not going to get up there! Too high!” Nyadbi told blogger Elizabeth Fortescue, from the Australian ArtWriter website, ahead of her trip to Paris. “White people can go up there.” 

Musée du quai Branly’s director, Stéphane Martin, has likened the work to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. 

The painting was inspired by Nyadbi’s homeland, Dayiwul Country in the Kimberley, Australia, with the barramundi’s scales representing diamonds hewed from the Argyle mine near her home. 

“It is symbolic of what indigenous people can achieve,” Nyadbi, who is around 77 years of age, told News Corp Australia. While the landscape surrounding her home has been destroyed by the gargantuan mine, the history of her people has not. “It explains our dreaming and it’s good for people all over the world to know that.” 

“It’s absolutely extraordinary and I think that we are still trying to grasp what the impact will be for generations to come,” said Lee-Ann Buckskin, chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board. 

Art has been synonymous with Paris throughout history and Nyadbi’s journey from a small red-dust community in the Kimberley to a prime gallery by the River Seine will bring attention to one of the world’s oldest cultural traditions, said Warmun Art Centre curator Jonathan Kimberley. 

“The vision to incorporate Lena’s extraordinary work into the fabric of Paris, to me, changes the game. It takes inter-cultural art discussion to a new level,” said Buckskin. 

“When I get home I will tell them I saw my barramundi beside the river ready to jump into the Paris river,” Nyadbi said, tears coming to her eyes as she stood on the Eiffel Tower at the unveiling of her replica. 

“That dayiwul, he can swim all through that whole city, all over, all the way; but that dayiwul, he is really in my country.”


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