Mentone to Lilla: A cultural journey

This art piece beautifully captures the cultural journey of Mentone Grammar students to Lilla Watarrka, a community near King’s Canyon in Central Australia. Aunty Vera’s artwork serves as both a narrative and a visual representation of the deep connections forged between the students and the Indigenous culture of Lilla.

In the painting, the large blue circle at the top symbolises Mentone Grammar, encapsulating the school and its community, including Mentor groups, teachers, and students. This circle signifies the starting point of the students’ journey. As the students travel from the blue and green hues of Bayside Melbourne towards Central Australia, the colours in the painting shift, reflecting the transition to the red earth of Lilla.

At the bottom of the painting is Lilla, depicted as the final destination where the students immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage of the world’s oldest living Indigenous culture. The three concentric circles represent three special locations at Lilla: the place of secret women’s business, secret men’s business, and the water hole, a particularly sacred ancestral site. The bird featured in the image is a willie wagtail, or ‘jinty jinty’, which holds distinct significance as it is Aunty Vera’s totem, representing her personal connection to the land, its stories, and The Dreaming, or ‘Tjukurpa’.

The other circles, which lead to Lilla, represent all the schools, social groups, and communities that visit Aunty Vera’s Country each year. She takes great pride in being able to foster social and cultural connections with everyone who visits.

As a proud Luritja Elder, Aunty Vera enriches the students’ experience by sharing her personal history, illustrating what life was like in the community when she was a child. Her storytelling and the painting itself are invaluable educational tools, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of Indigenous culture among the students. Through this annual pilgrimage, the students not only learn about but also become part of the living history of Lilla, bridging cultures and generations.