The Yagan Memorial is an artwork created for the City of Swan to honour the memory of the Aboriginal Warrior Yagan, the son of Midgigoroo and Moyran. Nyoongar artists who created the art works for the Memorial Site are Sandra Hill and Peter Farmer. The art works for the Yagan Memorial Park were designed by Peter Framer, Kylie Ricks and Sandra Hill. Jenny Dawson of J SHED ART STUDIO (from Fremantle) assisted Sandra with the major story wall works. Working team members are Tracie Pushman, Laurel Nannup and Ellen McFetridge. Roman Antoniuk built the rammed earth walls and Peter Zuvela documented photographically the entire artwork process and participated in the installation all of the artworks on the walls.
The Memorial Park is situated at Lot 39 West Swan Road, Swan Valley, Australia.
Yagan was a very important representative of the Beeliar People which includes Walyalup (modern Fremantle, in some sources referred to as Manjaree – West End of Fremantle, Arthur Head). He was instrumental in trying to forge good working relations with the first white settlers of the Swan River Colony in Western Australia.
Entry Statement to the Site by Sandra Hill
The work has several rammed earth curved walls that were fabricated at the beginning of the pathway leading into the Memorial site. A feature is the visual timeline etched into clay tablets that meander along the full length of the walls. They are reminiscent of the Waugal moving in and out of the land as well as acting as a connecting feature for the Burial Site. The walls, gradually grade down until they disappear back into the earth.
The imagery tells the story of Yagan and his family, their alienation from the white people, the taking and fencing off of their traditional land, the killings and the payback, and the treacherous ambush of Yagan, Heegan and his party by the Keates brothers at the site in 1833. Wall one depicts the story of Yagan and his people from colonisation to his untimely and tragic death.
Sandra Hill is a visual artist and a Yorga of the Nyoongar (Nyungar) people of Australia (South West of Western Australia). She worked on a series of paintings that were taken to New York. She also worked with Jenny Dawson (Ceramic Artist) at the J Shed Art Studio to produce a large scale group of ceramic public artworks to be located at the memorial park that honour the memory of Yagan. The site was opened early in July 2010.
Tracie Pushman on Yagan
“The story of Yagan lives strongly in the hearts of the Nyungar people. Son of Midgigooroo and Moyran, Yagan was a great leader of the Jondarup Ballaruk clan moeities. In the early years of colonisation by the British, the strangers to the area of Beeliar (Fremantle-Perth area) were welcomed by the Indigenous people and seen as Djanga – returning spirits of the dead. As time went on, the increasing domination of the settler colony resulted in restrictions to land access for the custodians of the area, ultimately threatening their cultural wellbeing, and their relationship to country. Aboriginal resistance followed and Yagan will always be remembered for his intelligence, strength, courage and influence during this period of resistance.
As a cultural warrior, Yagan was fearless and highly respected both by his own countrymen and those of the settlement led by Captain James Stirling. Yagan’s ability to bridge the cultural gap allowed the Nyungar people a voice for negotiation and a hope for cultural exchange. However, despite the friendships he had made with several families of importance and the infamy of his character, the Nyungar people continued to be dispossessed of land, marginalized and treated with cruelty. Because of his unusual position within the new society, Yagan was able to stand up for his people, which resulted in there being reward for his capture. Yagan was outlawed and on the 11th of July 1833, was shot dead for a reward of £30 by two young brothers whom he had previously befriended. Yagan’s Head was then cut from his body and sent to England.
The repatriation of Yagan’s remains had been a long and arduous journey, not being recovered until 1997 from a museum in Liverpool. Yagan is now finally able to be put to rest in his own country with the dignity and respect so deserved of this fallen warrior. “