Iconic painting gifted to school

(L-R): Ron Weinzierl, his daughter Kitty, artist Shae Jones, Ron's other daughter Daisy, Murrundindi and Annette Rome, principal of St Margaret's Berwick Grammar. Pics: GABRIELLA PAYNE 259317_22

By Gabriella Payne

A stunning and iconic artwork of Wurundjeri elder Murrundindi has returned home, after being donated to the school where it was originally created.

St Margaret’s Berwick Grammar was delighted to hear the news that the life-like painting, created by former student Shae Jones as part of her Year 12 studies, was kindly being gifted to the school by a well-known benefactor, Gumbuya World CEO, Ron Weinzierl.

Mr Weinzierl, whose daughters Daisy and Kitty both attend the college, said that when he heard the painting was up for sale, it was an easy decision to make.

“I’m so glad to be a part of this,“ Mr Weinzierl said at the school’s unveiling of the painting on Thursday 18 November.

“As soon as I saw it, I thought how cool would that be sitting in the foyer of the school?“

“We get involved in a lot of community work at Gumbuya, and I love this school with my daughters being here, so seeing an ex-student create this painting was just great, and if I can see my girls aspire to do something like what Shae’s done, then I’ll be very happy,“ he said.

The intricately detailed portrait of Murrundindi, the head man of the Wurundjeri people and a descendant of William Barak, received widespread acclaim when Ms Jones completed it in 2019.

The work was chosen as one of the best VCE artworks in the state and subsequently displayed in the NGV for a year as part of the Top Arts program.

Now a science student at Monash University, Shae Jones said that she had been storing the painting at home in her bedroom since the exhibition, but knew the life-size artwork needed a better, more permanent home.

When the school heard that Ms Jones wanted to sell the work, they were over the moon and thanks to Mr Weinzierl’s generosity – it’s finally found it’s way back home.

Ms Jones and Murrundindi himself came along to the celebratory unveiling at St Margaret’s on Thursday, and shared their elation at the news.

“I’m so excited, there’s nowhere else I would rather the painting to be than at the school,“ Ms Jones said.

The talented artist explained that she had been inspired to create the portrait of Murrundindi after he came to talk at the school one day, and it got her thinking.

“I was in Year 11 and I’d done a little bit of portraiture before, but it started when I saw Murrundindi and I thought, I would love to paint his features – I just thought he would be a really interesting person to paint,“ she said.

“So I got in contact with Murrundindi, talked to him and realised there was a much bigger story to it, so I thought he would be really powerful to paint.

“I chose to paint him in his cloak for it’s cultural significance and to do it full sized, because I wanted people to feel the presence that you feel when you are around him,“ she said.

“Another significant thing I chose to do was paint him wearing the white shirt with the cloak, because I think this shows the unity between the culture that this society was created upon, and what we are now – and I think Murrundindi bridges between those two worlds, which is what I wanted to portray through the piece.“

Murrundindi said it had been a great honour to have his portrait painted by Ms Jones and he was delighted that it would now be on display at St Margaret’s for years to come.

“I got very emotional thinking that someone wanted to paint my portrait, and even just looking at it now I get very emotional,“ he said.

“I’ve been involved with St Margaret’s Berwick Grammar for almost 15-16 years now, so I’m very excited that it’s at the school.“