Near the ANZAC Memorial in Sydney’s Hyde Park is a curious and impressive sculpture of colossal, 7-metre high bullets and casings. The sculpture, named Yininmadyemi, was unveiled in 2015 as a memorial to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen who served in the Australian military. The memorial is located right in the heart of Sydney, and is easy to find for those wishing to visit.
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What does Yininmadyemi mean?
Yininmadyemi was sculpted by Aboriginal sculptor Tony Albert, whose family has a combined service record of over 80 years in the Australian Defense Force. The name translates to ‘Thou didst let fall‘ in an indigenous language from the Sydney region. The translation comes from the work of Second Lieutenant William Dawes, an arrival on the First Fleet. He recorded the language and culture of Aboriginal peoples in his notebooks during the first three years of the colonisation period.
About Sydney’s Bullet Sculptures
The artwork was made from painted aluminium, black marble and steel. The base of the sculpture is made of crushed granite in a boomerang shape, inlaid with black and white patterns of smaller boomerangs.
The bullets are modelled off the .303 round, a common ammunition used during the First and Second World Wars, as well as the Korean War. The symbolism of the standing and fallen bullets acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who served in the Australian Defense Force, as well as those who gave their lives in Australia’s conflicts. The memorial also signifies the struggles of Indigenous servicemen who were denied the granting of land to thank them for serving their country, and were actually having their land taken away upon their return home.
Albert drew inspiration from his grandfather, Eddie Albert, an Indigenous soldier who served during the Second World War. He was taken prisoner in Libya, and transported to Germany as a prisoner of war. He and 6 others managed to escape, only to be recaptured by Italian soldiers who lined the group up for execution. The three fallen bullets of the sculpture represent three of the group who were executed, before the Italian soldiers returned the rest back to their POW camp.
Indigenous servicemen have served in Australia’s military from the first Boer War in 1880, right up until the present day.
Location in Hyde Park
Yininmadyemi is located in Hyde Park South, by Elizabeth Street in Sydney’s CBD. The site was chosen for its proximity to the ANZAC Memorial, as well as the land’s historical status as a crossroads of walking trails, a ritual contest ground, and a site for camping, ceremonies, and gatherings.
The sculpture was commissioned by the City of Sydney for the city’s Eora Journey program, which recognises and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture in the public domain. Albert’s design was chosen as the winner from 14 candidates. Reactions to the artworks were mixed, with one critic calling it “too heavy-handed, too obvious.” Regardless, Yininmadyemi is certainly a strong statement.
For those visiting ANZAC Memorial, or passing through Hyde Park, it’s well worth taking the time to appreciate Tony Albert’s sculpture Yininmadyemi. Not only is it a striking and poignant sculpture, but it’s an important memorial to those Indigenous Australians who fought and died in service of the country.