In a small garden beside a road to the Frankston foreshore, near a beachside restaurant, there is a giant Kangaroo Apple fruit. Not another giant roadside tourist attraction, like the Big Pineapple, but a sculpture by prominent local Indigenous artists Vicki Couzens (Gunditjmara) and Maree Clarke (Mutti Mutti/Yorta Yorta/Wamba Wamba/Boon Wurrung). Unlike the big things, the Kangaroo Apple is not painted to appear real, although there are two green patinas on the surface of the bronze, a dark green for the fruit and a lighter green for the stem.
Couzens and Clarke have often collaborated on public art, from Frankston in Melbourne’s east to Footscray in its western suburbs (sometimes with other Indigenous women). There is Kangaroo Apple in Frankston from 2009, Frog Dreaming in Point Cook from 2009, Spirit of the Land in Oakleigh from 2010, and Wominjeka tarnuk yooroom (Welcome bowl) in Footscray from 2013. (For more about Wominjeka tarnuk yooroom see my post about Public Sculpture in Footscray. And my review of the Maree Clarke exhibition at the NGV, the first solo show by a living Victorian Aboriginal artist at the NGV.)
The sculpture is of the bulbous fruit of the Kangaroo Apple (Solanum laciniatum) a native shrub with purple-blue flowers, represented by the star-shaped floret on the side. It is a symbol of the arrival of ‘eel season,’ a harvest festival where women would wear the Kangaroo Apple flowers.
Kangaroo Apple was part of the Frankston foreshore renewal public art project. It is an example of relevant public art city councils should be investing in. It is not a major landmark sculpture for the area (nor in the career of the two artists). It is a way marker showing and reminding us where we are and where we have come from. A sculpture connected with the location, with connections to Country that give added meaning to a place.