Select Page

Andrew Cullen

Project TitleThe Water Python, a collaboration with artist Goompi Ugerabah
VenueHelensvale Library, Goldcoast, Australia
DateSeptember 2023


As part of the Swell Sculpture Festival 2023, Andrew Cullen and Goompi Ugerabah created and delivered ‘The Water Python’, a site-specific public artwork for the Helensvale Library. The presented sculpture is a representation of a native python that is endem­ic to the area and is also the central character of the indigenous story; ‘The Rainbow Serpent’. This ‘Creation Story’ of the Yugambeh people is com­monly termed a ‘songline’. Aboriginal elder, Margo Neale, said these ‘songlines’ act as ‘receptacles of ancient knowledge and narratives as well as being portals to real places. You can learn what happened there. Where there is water. Where there is danger. How to sustain life and how to sustain place.’ (Wroe, 2021)  

The collaboration with renowned indigenous artist, Goompi Ugerabah, sought to speak to the ontology of his people, through a non-traditional and contemporary medium. Ever mindful of his responsibility as a guardian of Yu­gambeh culture, Goompi saw this as an opportuni­ty to preserve heritage.  Anangu elder, David Miller, says  such cultural songlines need protection, ‘not just from colonisation but a perceived lack of interest among younger generations.’ (Wroe,2021). Stories of traditional lore, shared orally to young indigenous Australians, often include native animals and contain messages of creation, care and sustainability. This cross-cultural collaboration sought to specifically engage children in the ‘Rainbow Serpent’ songline.

Mindful that the ‘Rainbow Serpent’ story is pivotal to ‘the longest uninterrupted mythological tradition in the world’ (Wroth,D. 2020), the project critically addressed the extent to which non-indig­enous artists can collaborate with indigenous artists, to raise awareness of traditional indigenous storytelling in a contemporary visual context.


Andrew Cullen (@tomewinjesus, is a multidisciplinary artist with particular focus on sculpture. His work almost always focusses on the human treatment of animals; domestic, wild and farmed. His work comes from research into the many forms of cruelty humans inflict on defenceless beings. Through his themes, he aims to bring cruel practice into the light, asking audiences to reflect on their own behaviour regarding animal well-being. This particular project, beyond its indigenous cultural focus, highlighted the displacement of Water Pythons as a result of suburban expansion into natural areas and the building of a major motorway.

Goompi (meaning Possum) Ugerabah (@goompi_ugerabah)is a significant Australian indigenous artist and the song man of global Aboriginal dance troupe, Bundjalung Kunjiel.  Known particularly for his large artworks he illustrates oral stories of his Kombumerri and Minjungal heritage, most often in acrylic and oil paint. Goompi is internationally renowned for his restrained colour palette and eye-catching graphics, and this was at the forefront in the ‘Water Python’ project. Goompi’s painting style involved using traditional patterns of the Bungalung Nation to depict all animals with scales. The traditional indigenous ‘flag’ colours link the sculpture back to the earth, sun and people of the original tellings of the ‘Rainbow Serpent’.   







Posted on

January 9, 2024