Lisa Kennedy’s Artwork in Wilam: A Birrarung Story

Inside the CBCA Shortlist

Wilam: A Birrarung Story is shortlisted for the 2020 CBCA Eve Pownall Award.

In this review, I will focus on the illustrations by Lisa Kennedy.

The illustrations in Wilam: A Birrarung Story (written by Aunty Joy Murphy & Andrew Kelly, published by Black Dog Books, Walker Books Australia) are by emerging artist Lisa Kennedy, who is a descendant of the Trawlwoolway People of Tasmania. Lisa has an affinity with natural river environments which translates into her lush and tactile interpretation of Birrarung (Melbourne’s Yarra River).

Wilam: A Birrarung Story, illustration by Lisa Kennedy (Walker Books Australia)

Through her vibrant art and design Lisa Kennedy shows that Birrarung is wilam (home). She sets every scene and aspect of Birrarung on a double-page spread, filling the space, bleeding to the page edges, to entice and welcome viewers into this teeming, life-giving habitat. Bunjil (wedge-tailed eagle), painted in an Indigenous geometric style, welcomes and farewells the reader from its omnipotent vantage point. We meet wallert (possum), dulai-wurrung (platypus), yanggai (black cockatoo), boggon (water rat) and other native creatures daubed in textured paints. Fauna is often painted in bright acrylics, and bands patterned with dots and curved and angular shapes become the sky, tunnels, riverbank and river itself.

Lisa Kennedy’s illustrations derive from the land, animals and the river. Her created world is uniquely Australian and can be viewed both closely and from a distance, where the colours and shapes perhaps shine even more brightly.

CBCA Book Week 2020

2020 CBCA Shortlist

Wilam also won the IBBY (Australia) award for illustration in 2019 and was shortlisted for the 2020 Patricia Wrightson Prize (NSW Premier’s Literary Awards).

Subscribers of Magpies Magazine may have read my cover review of Wilam. This may be a useful resource.

Wilam: A Birrarung Story, illustration by Lisa Kennedy (Walker Books Australia)

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