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Published January 8th 2023
Can you find the kookaburras in Paddington
Follow the collection of giant kookaburras along the arts trail in Paddington and see how Brisbane artists celebrate one of Australia's most recognisable creatures of Australian fauna.
Apart from the beloved furry gum tree hugging koalas, is there any symbol that says Australia more than the kookaburra? Known for their distinctive cackling laugh which has led to them being called "laughing jackasses", or the Bushman's Clock due to their accurate call at sunrise and sunset, the kookaburras are the largest kingfishers. In the wild, they live in dry eucalypt forests, woodlands, city parks and gardens and tend to live in the same territory throughout the year.
So much do we love the kookaburras that they are even the symbol of Australia's national sporting teams! Now, the feathered kookaburra has been artistically celebrated and interpreted in the Brisbane inner city suburb of Paddington with its very own Kooka Public Art Trail.
What is the Kooka Trail? The Kooka Trail is an arts installation curated by the Brisbane City Council as part of the Paddington Terraces Precinct Grant Project. Released in 2022, there are 16 kookas in total along the trail which winds through the main shopping district. Each kooka has been created from waste concrete and vividly, brightly and boldly painted to appear on curbsides and outside shops in the busy inner city shopping and cafe precinct.
Each kooka has a special and individual interpretation of some aspect of the Paddington suburb. And as one of Brisbane's oldest suburbs, having seen settlement in the 1860s, there is a lot of history to draw upon.
Beside bus stops, outside cafes, and sitting in green spaces, the kookas can be seen resting for locals and visitors to enjoy. The design has a slightly square top on their heads and this lends them to being a seating bench.
Some of kookas, like the piece. "Kooka in the Hood" has distinct workers cottages on stumps painted on their bellies. Others are titled "Confetti Kooka", "Love the View From Here", "Well the Plants Will Be Happy" and "Catholic Immigrants". The latter piece focuses on the first Catholic immigrants to Paddington and the surrounding suburbs in the 1940s to 1970s. The kooka piece represents five groups through recognisable cultural designs - the Irish, the Hungarians, the Croatians, the Polish, and the Italians.
The piece titled, "Latrobe Kookaburra" (2022) features the bright colours of local neighbourhood bird species including the pink crested galahs, cockatoos and lorikeets as well as the kookaburra feather patterning. This artwork reflects the vibrancy of the Paddington Terraces and the neighbourhood's local environment and can be found at 163 Given Terrace Paddington
Tori-Jay Mordey, a Torres Strait Islander artist and illustrator based in Meanjin/Brisbane, has created a work titled "Care and At Night" which reflects the struggles and challenges native animals face to thrive and survive in a modern city landscape. Featuring a possum wrapped up by a young boy, the pieces are designed to be a gentle reminder to care for and be mindful of our native wildlife.
Which one was my favourite? Well, I couldn't choose. I loved them all and the fun was in the surprise of following the trail and wondering what you would find, where and what local story they would tell.
The next time you are walking past, driving through, or visiting Paddington or even looking for a fun, easy activity for the kids to enjoy looking out for the Paddington Terraces Kooka Art Trail on the side of the road. They will surely bring a smile and maybe even a laugh to your day.