Parliament House is currently

Michael Nelson Jagamara's Possum and Wallaby Dreaming

Michael Nelson Jagamara (born 1945) Luritja/Warlpiri peoples, fabricated by William McIntosh, Aldo Rossi and Franco Colussi, Forecourt Mosaic Pavement, Parliament House Canberra (Possum and Wallaby Dreaming), 1986–1987. Over 90,000 granite setts on cement. Reproduced with permission of the Artist through the Aboriginal Artists’ Agency Ltd. Photograph courtesy of the Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra ACT. © The artist licensed by Aboriginal Artists’ Agency Ltd.

 

Parliament’s forecourt mosaic is based on a design by Warlpiri artist Michael Nelson Jagamara, and is a contemporary depiction of an ancient Western Desert Dreaming.

The 196-square-metre mosaic is the first artwork that you will encounter on your visit to Parliament. It is located in a ceremonial pool in the forecourt, on an island that symbolises the isolated continent of Australia.

The mosaic symbolises the deep spiritual relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their ancestral land.   

Jagamara is a Warlpiri Elder from Papunya, west of Alice Springs. He is one of the foremost proponents of Western Desert painting, one of the first contemporary Indigenous art movements.             

Michael Nelson Jagamara (born 1945) Luritja/Warlpiri peoples, Possum and Wallaby Dreaming, 1985, synthetic polymer paint on canvas,
Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra, ACT. © The artist licensed by Aboriginal Artists’ Agency Ltd.

A mosaic with complex layers of meaning

The mosaic is based on Jagamara’s painting Possum and Wallaby Dreaming, which describes a gathering of a large group of people from the kangaroo, wallaby and goanna ancestors. The groups are meeting to talk and to enact ceremonial obligations.    

The mosaic is a contemporary interpretation of the sand-painting tradition of the Warlpiri people, and has complex layers of meaning known only to Warlpiri elders.

The forecourt mosaic is made of over 90,000 individual hand-guillotined pieces of granite, which were specially selected to match, as far as possible, the colours in the original painting.

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