3 August 2023

Giant Dreamtime Murray cod migrates from Wagga to Griffith

| Oliver Jacques
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Giant Murray cod sculpture

The impressive Murray cod sculpture can be seen alongside other exhibits at Pioneer Park Museum. Photo: Pioneer Park Museum.

A giant seven-metre sculpture of a Murray Cod fish has made its way from Wagga to Griffith, where it is on exhibition at Pioneer Park Museum.

Gugabul is an impressive representation of the native species created by the Wagga-based group Hands On Weavers with Wiradjuri artists and cousins Peter Ingram and Shelby-Rae Lyons-Kschenka.

“I was contacted by my cousin Peter, who did the framework, to work on this,” Ms Lyons-Kschenka said. “We designed the fins out of marine plywood.”

“I was honoured that I have my name next to his work.”

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Ms Lyons-Kschenka, who grew up in Narrandera and Griffith but lives in Wagga, said it was quite an effort to get the exhibit to Pioneer Park.

“It was in Wagga at first than swam it’s way to Griffith. It’s so big it has to be taken down in pieces and rebuilt. I hope they move it around the state.”

The 27-year-old artist said the Murray cod is a central part of her culture.

“It’s one of our main food sources. My family and I go out at Christmastime and we catch a whole heap of the fish, we store it away and we eat it at Easter.

“My grandmother [Elizabeth Lyons] cooks it for us all. She makes it the best, better than any restaurant.”

Narrandera artist with grandma in Indigenous dress

Narrandera artist Shelby-Rae Lyons-Kschenka with her grandma Elizabeth Lyon. Photo: Pure Dreams Photography.

The Dreamtime-sized sculpture is accompanied by a colourful animation produced by Aunty Lorraine Tye that shares a legend from along the rivers.

“It’s wonderful to be able to show a variety of perspectives on Murray cod,” Pioneer Park Museum curator Jason Richardson said.

“The details about how an ancestor created the bends in the rivers have been shared even more widely than these fish are known to travel, which research has shown can be 120 km.”

The exhibition also includes observations from Europeans such as John Oxley, Charles Sturt and Mary Gilmore, as well as details such as why these fish make great fathers.

In recent years, Murray cod have become a premium aquaculture product that’s grown in our region and one that has developed from the research of John Lake, who the Narrandera Fisheries Centre is named after.

“There’s a lot to learn about this distinctive creature and something for everyone,” said Mr Richardson.

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The exhibition is another achievement in the career of Ms Lyons-Kschenka, who sells bags, gifts, hats, prints and other items she makes through her own business, Marara Designs.

“I moved to Victoria for a while, but I got really homesick, so I came back to Wiradjuri country, but Wagga rather than Narrandera. Our business has taken off a lot, it grew by word of mouth.

“My artwork is set to go national soon, I can’t say much now but I’ll have some exiting news soon.”

The Gugabul exhibit can be viewed at Pioneer Park Museum on weekdays between 10 am and 4 pm or on weekends between 10 am and 3 pm. Entry to the museum costs $15 for adult, $12 for concession card holders and $8 for children, with kids under five admitted free.

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