Connections to the land and sea

In 2021, Museum of Tropical Queensland commissioned an artwork from local Townsville Indigenous artist, Jumbo Prior.

Jumbo Prior is a Bwgcolman, Birri-Gubba and Mamu man. Jumbo was born on Palm Island and grew up in Cherbourg. A self-taught artist, Jumbo has been painting for around eight years. He recently designed the Toyota Cowboys 2021 NRL Indigenous Jersey, with his work, ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dreamtime Unity’.

The artwork Jumbo created for Museum of Tropical Queensland is called ‘Connections to the land and sea’.

You will see the sun in the top left hand corner which represents the ‘giver of life’ to all peoples.

The footprints represent all Townsville people and their connection to land and sea, following the waterways that flow from the Ross River Dam, through channels of creeks and past the museum, out to the Breakwater area. These waterways are represented by the swirling circles used throughout the artwork.

The arches represent families and tribes that connect to the land on which the museum sits.

The centre circle represents the museum as the central gathering or meeting place for all people of Townsville and the surrounding areas, inviting people to come and learn about the past, present and future.

The handprints, big and small, pay respect to the cultural diversity of the region.

The ten circles connected at the bottom of the work represent the journey that people have taken to reach the land around the museum – from different communities, suburbs and towns. The cross-hatching symbolises the pathway taken by all to reach the museum.

The bottom triangles depict the journey between mountains and sea, representing the landscape that surrounds Townsville and its communities.

Jumbo Prior (Jesse James), 2021

‘Connections to the land and sea’ is now featured as a large scale mural in the Museum of Tropical Queensland foyer.

The mural, accompanied by the museum’s Acknowledgment to Country and display of objects from the Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Centre, will be on display until 2022.

Watch more about the display collaboration here.

Compiled by Sophie Price, Assistant Curator, Anthropology