Winner of The 2009 New South Wales Local Government Aboriginal Cultural Development Award
The project involved collaborating artists, a stained glass artist and a visual artist. They worked on the story of Ngarradan the original dreamtime creation story of Cootamundra with designs for stained glass windows installed in the Cootamundra Town Hall. In March 2008, artists began designing the project, and research commenced into the materials and costings. Design finals were submitted for approval in May 2008 and the artworks completed and installed by August 2008.
The Grand Opening of the Windows was held in November 2008. This event was attended by more than 100 indigenous persons with links to Cootamundra and the ex Cootamundra Girls Home and was instrumental in continuing the healing and reconciliation process.
The Wiradjuri Windows creates a community connection, bringing together people of all walks of life, ages and backgrounds.
The Stained Glass Windows are a Wiradjuri tribute to Melinda Bell for keeping the old stories alive and to those children of the stolen generations who endured their years at the Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls Training Home.
First and foremost this is a Children's story. From its provenance, hundreds, possibly thousands, of years ago, through embellishments or omissions through the centuries, to Melinda's version, this interpretation receives the approval of relevant Wiradjuri descendants.
Brochure on Wiradjuri Windows (PDF 2.00MB)
Long, long ago, high in a cave in the Bethungra Range, lived a wise and powerful Bageeyn. He was master of the secrets of land and sky and had skill to transform into any shape imaginable. However he was old and lonely and despaired that he had no-one to whom he could pass on his immense wisdom.
One night, in the guise of a great, striped dog, he carried off a young boy to train as his apprentice The boy's friend, pulled a blazing branch from the camp fire, threw it at the dog, setting fire to it's headband. Blinded, Mirriyuula ran howling back to his cave.
The Bageeyn was summoned before a Council of Elders which sentenced him to banishment to the underland for his transgression of tribal law.
However, as a concession to his former greatness he was permitted one night per year to hunt for a suitable apprentice.
Mirrayuula chose THE LONGEST NIGHT.
In the Dreaming, before time begins, Baiame wakes to infinite blackness.
Opening his hand, Gan crawls forth into the darkness and the cosmos explodes into its endless flight through space.
Stars, planets, constellations and the spirits of all creatures that have ever lived or will ever live, wake.
Yirri, Giwang, Gilgie, Marrkara and all other spirits of earth wake, including Guudhamang and Mirriyuula.
Aboriginal society has developed. Parents and older children prepare for the terrible night to come.
Children are ushered into the Gunyahs and cautioned into silence.
Great piles of firewood are collected and the campfire stoked to a fierce blaze.
Guuribang's mournful cry floats out over the marshes, but who knows whether as a warning signal for the people or an invitation to the dog; Curlews could not be trusted.
For whatever reason there begins a mass exodus of fur, fins and feathers.
Bubuk flies off to sharpen her beak and talons for the battle about to commence.
The battle begins, Ngarradan and his night fliers swarm from hollow trees and caves in a great rolling curtain of blackness to obliterate Giwang.
(Like all ghosts, Mirriyuula needs darkness) Bubuk begins her half-hearted slaughter, but what chance has she against a myriad of nimble bats. She tries her best but, inevitably, darkness flows down on the land like a great thunder cloud, purple and menacing.
Total impenetrable darkness-no sound but the hiss and crackle of the campfire, whose light is even absorbed by the gloom. On the horizon's rim of huge, balancing boulders a faint gleam is discerned.
The Ghost Dog looms up from the underland, luminous and inimical.
His ears are pricked for the faintest heartbeat, his eyes burn holes through the blackness, his great head is lowered swinging from side to side, sniffing the land. He begins his prowl around the camp.
The children huddle cowering in the Gunyahs, the fire is stoked to an inferno.
Guudhamang knows his time is close when he must assume physical form for a fight to the death with Mirrayuula. But not yet. The first faint light of dawn washes over the horizon.
Mirriyula, thwarted, howls in anger and frustration and fades below to wait for the next Longest Night.
There is great joy among the people. The children emerge to laugh and sing in the morning light. Guuguubarra and his mate sing their song of renewal. All creatures begin to return to their homeland and Guudhamang fades back to the spirit land. Life returns to it's time-honoured pattern.
Peace and Happiness reign once more.