Connecting to culture through art and stories
The Dreamtime serpent sculpture Natureworks created for Weir State School near Townsville is much more than a sculpture. It’s a distinctive cultural artefact that supports the school’s journey, reflects its values and gives all those in its community a sense of pride, belonging and connection.
Supporting the school's journey
Over the last few years, Weir State School has placed increasing emphasis on connecting students to Australia’s rich cultural heritage through First Nations storylines. By nurturing relationships with traditional groups and elders, the school embraces First Nations knowledge and traditions in a respectful way.
One of these traditions is the story of ‘Gabul’, the diamond headed python of the local Wulgurukaba People. In 2021, the school worked with local First Nations people to create an award-winning dance that tells Gabul’s story, performed at the Wakakirri festival. The following year, the school was again acclaimed by Wakakirri for its ‘Torres Strait Island Celestial Dance’ that paid respects to Torres Strait Islander peoples and their ancestors.
Around this time, the school recognised that Gabul would provide a strong visual symbol for the school, so they asked Natureworks to create a giant sculpture of the python. This artefact subsequently became the centrepiece of the school’s ‘Gabul Gathering’ dance/video story in 2023.
The sculpture of Gabul is grounded proudly in the school’s Cultural Precinct, and reflects the school’s values of “strong, smart, connected”. It has come to represent the school’s transformational journey over recent years – a story of belonging, connection and reconciliation.
Creating the sculpture
The Dreamtime serpent sculpture is based on our giant carpet python sculpture, adapted to suit the school’s needs. It has highly detailed scales and features, which you can see in the close-up photographs of the mould and final product below. Like most of our sculptures, it is made of sturdy fibreglass, built for strength and made to last.
Photo gallery: The Dreamtime serpent sculpture in production
Painting the artefact – cultural storytelling
Rather than painting the snake with realistic carpet python colours and features, Natureworks painted it in warm rainbow colours, ready for the school to turn into something special. That transformation happened when local indigenous leader and artist Wes Stubbings painted the artefact with his impression of the First Nations journey.
The artefact went through stages of story and connection through First Nations storytelling and representation, giving meaning to the storyline prominent in the school’s journey.
'The Gabul Gathering' dance and video story
In 2023, the school created a multi-award winning dance interweaving the story of the school with the story of the dreamtime serpent, Gabul. Called the ‘Gabul Gathering’, it won national prizes from Wakakirri for performance, storytelling and reconciliation. That’s pretty impressive, Weir State School – you’ve won awards three years in a row!
The inspirational Gabul Gathering video connects traditional stories to the school’s journey, creating a sense of belonging, connection and reconciliation.
Around halfway through the video you’ll see the dramatic unveiling of Gabul, the dreamtime serpent sculpture. However, don’t fast forward to that bit! We advise you to watch it all so you can follow this beautifully crafted story from the beginning. It’s well worth the six minutes, and you’ll probably want to watch and listen to it more than once!
Scenes from 'The Gabul Gathering'
|Client||Weir State School|
|Project||Giant snake sculpture of traditional dreamtime serpent ‘GABUL’|
|Audience||Primary school children, families and teachers|
|Location||592 Ross River Road, Kirwin, QLD 4817 Australia (see map)|
|Related products||Snakes, Big Things (Animals)|
|Related catalogues||Reptiles, Big Things|
|Similar projects||Murrook Culture Centre, Dreamtime-themed playground|
Project case study
Creating cultural artefacts
As this project demonstrates, an inspirational art piece or sculpture can tell the story of a place or people, connecting us to culture. In a similar way, our statues of a Worimi warrior family at Murrook Culture Centre help to instil pride in First Nations culture and create a sense of belonging in the local community. Sometimes cultural myths and stories can be used simply to engage the imagination, such as the Keppel Kraken water park with its artistic sculptures of the mythical Kraken sea monster.
Natureworks has always been keen to support projects that promote awareness of cultural and natural heritage. As in this example, we can often adapt existing sculptures to suit your needs. However, Natureworks can design and fabricate just about anything! If you have a special project in mind, our custom design process will ensure you get a great result.
Contact Natureworks to discuss ideas or get an estimate for your project.