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Aunty Zeta Thomson, a woman with long dark hair and wearing a black floral dress, stands smiling in front of a modern tram covered in a black an muted-tone artwork of spirits
Photograph: Supplied / Common State

Melbourne's First Nations-designed art trams have been unveiled

The six trams will be visible across various Melbourne tram routes for the next 12 months

Nicola Dowse
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Nicola Dowse
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Melbourne's has six new art trams hitting the streets and every single one of them features work from Victorian First Peoples artists. The first of Melbourne's new batch of Art Trams have been revealed and features a design titled 'Mookies around the watering hole' by respected Elder, artist, cultural teacher and advocate Aunty Zeta Thomson (Wurundjeri/Yorta Yorta). Aunty Zeta explains: "Mookie means spirit in Yorta Yorta. In our culture, visitors would call out to Ancestor Mookies as they walked through the bush announcing they were coming onto Country."

"This work teaches us to respect Country and honour Ancestors."

The trams are part of new winter festival Rising, which officially launches Wednesday, May 26. Curated by festival artistic associate Kimberley Moulton (Yorta Yorta) the trams explore a range of concepts from the environment and caring for Country, to personal stories. While 'Mookies around the watering hole' has now hit the tracks (see it on routes 5, 6, 16, 58 or 72), the rest of the 2021 Art Trams will be rolled out over the next two weeks. Artists and works featured in the project include:

Jarra Karalinar Steel (Boonwurrung/Wemba Wemba)
Steel's work 'iilk (eel)' can be found across the 48 or 109 route network and features a design inspired by the stories of eels Steel's mother told her as a child.

Ray Thomas (Brabrawooloong Gunnai)
Thomas's work 'Djeetgun Dreaming' uses linear designs drawn from the markings made on shields collected from the 1800s. Thomas explains: “Djeetgun, the female blue wren is a wrukut (women's) totem of the Gunnai people of Gippsland." See it on the route 70 and 75.

Aunty Rochelle Patten (Dhudhuroa/Wemba Wemba/Yorta Yorta)
'March of the Ants' is a work by Aunty Rochelle Patten that pays respect to Country and community. She says: "The ants represent travelling, working together and participating in our community. Every ant has a role to play to ensure survival and continuity." This tram runs on the 58 and 59 tram routes. 

Thomas Marks (Wotjobaluk/Gunaikurnai)
Marks' work 'Walking on my Father's Country' features plants native to the Wimmera River. Marks says: "This work represents walking on my father’s Country and the importance of leaving my footprints and connections. My father was a proud Wotjobaluk man. It’s a tribute to him." See it on route 6 and 19.

Deanne Gilson (Wadawurrung)
Gilson's work is called 'Karringalabil Bundjil Murrup, Manna Gum Tree (The Creation Tree of Knowledge)' and can be found on the 3, 3a, 64 and 67 tram routes. She says: "This work is a Wadawurrung creation story at a place known as Black Hill in Gordon, Victoria. It is a story is of a man known as Karringalabil the creator spirit, who created the first man and woman out of clay (paapul)."

You can view and ride Melbourne's new art trams for the next 12 months, and find out more about each artwork by scanning the QR codes inside each individual art tram.

Rising festival takes place from May 26 to June 6.

Here are the works we're most excited to see at Melbourne's first-ever Rising festival.

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