First Peoples artists unveil stunning public art commission

QCA alumni Kim Ah Sam and Kyra Mancktelow at the launch of the public art trail in Ipswich

A pair of Griffith alumni are helping to put Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art front and centre by creating an eye-catching public art trail through Ipswich’s city centre.

Queensland College of Art (QCA) graduates Kim Ah Sam and her niece Kyra Mancktelow were commissioned by Ipswich City Council to create work for the new Tulmur Place precinct.

The one-hectare civic plaza features an art trail that is designed to showcase the Aboriginal culture and history of the area.

The Bachelor of Contemporary Australian Indigenous Art (CAIA) alumni created several works, including hanging fish traps, a family of platypus sculptures and a mural representing Indigenous trade routes.

Kyra, who is now embarking on an Honours degree at the QCA, said the project had been a learning curve.

“I only graduated from CAIA at the end of last year, and I started this project while I was still an undergrad,” she said.

“I love doing conceptual gallery work, but public art commissions give you a chance to connect with a different audience.”

The Quandamooka artist said feedback from local Elders had informed the project.

Artist Kyra Manktelow

“We managed to incorporate a lot of their ideas — our sculptures are all of animals native to this area and the mural represents the song, dance and stories that were traded along these routes, keeping people connected,” she said.

“My time at CAIA taught me how to create work with meaning, work that reflects our knowledge and culture.”

Kyra said it was special to work alongside family on the commission.

Artists Kim Ah Sam and Kyra Manktelow

“Aunty Kim was the person who inspired me to apply for CAIA,” she said.

“She really set me on the path to becoming an artist.

“To work with family, and mob is great — Kim and I really bounced off each other.”

Director of IAM Projects (Independent Arts Management) and QCA alumnus Simon Koger developed an Indigenous Art Strategy for the Ipswich City Council and curated the public art installations for the new CBD precinct.

QCA alumnus Simon Koger

“It is really gratifying that Indigenous art is now featured so prominently in the heart of the city,” he said.

“From inception to installation, it’s been a wonderful process to see it unfold.

“Kim and Kyra’s work is stunning. We’re lucky to have local artists creating work that is of an international standard.

“Good public art like this connects the past, present and future, and gives people a chance to stop, reflect and come away with a better understanding of our history.”

Ipswich Mayor Teresa Harding said the city’s civic spaces had been enriched by the artworks.

“These public art installations provide important platforms for local artists to express their talents, stories and rich cultural heritage,” she said.

“Art in public spaces is critical to fostering community identity, creating a sense of place and connecting us with Indigenous and local history.”