A DESIGN of a mural planned at Kurri Kurri has raised questions about the portrayal of Aboriginal people in art.
Cessnock councillor James Ryan supported the mural but said the depiction of an Aboriginal person ‘‘may be perceived as patronising’’.
Cr Ryan said Aboriginal people should be consulted on the design.
Artist Peter Sesselmann said the mural design was ‘‘a reflection of the area’s past’’.
Mr Sesselmann said he included a silhouette of an Aboriginal person as ‘‘a reference to the past’’.
‘‘I don’t see it as derogatory, but my personal perspective is not really relevant when it comes to things like this,’’ Mr Sesselmann said. ‘‘I understand they’re raising the question because I thought about it when I was doing it.
‘‘I have a close friend who’s an Aboriginal artist and I can certainly have a chat to him.’’
Cessnock Aboriginal elder Les Elvin said the artist had ‘‘done a great job’’.
‘‘I can’t see where it’s demeaning our people,’’ said Mr Elvin, who won the NAIDOC Artist of the Year award in 2008.
‘‘One person rang me up and said we could have an Aboriginal person in among the other people.
‘‘But I like the Aboriginal in the background – it stands out.’’
Mr Elvin liked the kangaroo in the design because ‘‘he’s one of the animals that can only go forward’’.
‘‘He’s telling us Kurri has been going forward since Aboriginal man first came there,’’ he said.
It would be the 55th mural built in Kurri and surrounding suburbs, Towns with Heart community projects manager Lesley Morris said.
Ms Morris said it would be ‘‘a town entry mural’’ on Main Road, Kurri, where traffic came off the expressway.
‘‘It’ll portray some of the important aspects of our local history, including coalmining, the smelter, the textiles industry, murals and the nostalgia festival,’’ Ms Morris said.
Towns With Heart secured $19,500 in state money for the 10.5-metre by 5.5-metre mural.