"It was meant to be the Dreamtime set in stone, a celebration of reconciliation and a "revival of Aboriginal spirituality". But Wanjina Watchers in the Whispering Stone, an 8.5-tonne sculpture in Katoomba, has sparked vandalism and death threats.
"This is the most beautiful thing that has been done for Aboriginal people," a Blue Mountains gallery owner, Vesna Tenodi, says. "They should be thanking me, but instead I get yelled at wherever I go."
Tenodi is the owner, together with her husband Damir, of the ModroGorje Wellness and Art Centre. Originally from Croatia, Tenodi ruffled feathers late last year when she published her book Dreamtime Set in Stone: The Truth about Australian Aborigines, an exploration of indigenous culture that was dedicated to "the Aboriginal people and to the Aborigine in each of us". But the book offended many local Aborigines, not least for its illustrations of wanjina, a sacred creation ancestor of the Kimberley people in Western Australia.
"It's totally inappropriate for a non-indigenous person to be doing wanjinas, especially without permission," said Chris Tobin, a member of the local Darug people who works as a guide with the National Parks and Wildlife Service. "Aboriginal law is very specific on what you can and can't do with wanjinas."
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