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Traditional Japanese sculptures celebrate Australian wildlife and wheat farming in Western Australia

Victoria Laurie, October 8, 2018 7:00PM The Australian

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Wheat in a wheat field in Western Australia being harvested media_cameraWheat in a wheat field in Western Australia being harvested


Reading level: green

Western Australia’s wheat fields have yielded* an ­unusual harvest of creatures, ­including a giant bilby and a rare turtle shaped from wheat stalks.

The residents of York, an hour’s drive east of Perth, are celebrating their region’s wheat harvest, much of which goes to Japan to make noodles.

The display of endangered animals on the streets during York’s ­annual* community festival were created by a Japanese artist of natural sculptures and a team of keen local helpers.

Wara art is a craft tradition celebrated across Japan each year, in which sheafs* of rice stalks are woven into fantastic shapes.

Festival director Jenny Garroun with a wheat-straw bilby sculpture at York, Western Australia. Picture: The Australian media_cameraFestival director Jenny Garroun with a wheat-straw bilby sculpture at York, Western Australia. Picture: Matthew Poon

When she heard about Wara art, York Festival director Jenny Garroun decided to expand the town’s haybale sculpture challenge into a bigger event.

She invited Wara art sculptor Akira Moriya to York to oversee* the making of a bilby, turtle and frog using local wheat straw.

“I thought it would be amazing, and it would draw attention to the endangered status* of our native animals,’’ she said.

Charlotte McLellan, 9, and friends check out the giant hay bilby on display at the York Festival. Picture: Matthew Poon media_cameraCharlotte, 9, and friends check out the giant hay bilby on display at the York Festival. Picture: Matthew Poon

Western Australia’s Wheatbelt farmers provide as much as half of the high-quality wheat used in Japan to make certain types of noodles, including the white, salty noodles called udon.

Through history, Japan’s rice-weaving tradition was a way to use up rice stalks after harvest, for roofs, fertiliser, animal feed and tatami* matting. In modern times, these have been replaced by newer materials.

SA cook Callum Hann, a finalist in TV program 'MasterChef', teaches aspiring chefs Lucie and Jordan some of his kitchen secrets. Cooking Callum's chicken and noodle stir fry dish together. Japanese udon noodles. media_cameraUdon is a traditional style of white, salty Japanese noodle. Japanese noodle makers like West Australian wheat to make these and other types of noodles.

The Wara Art Festival in northern Japan, which ends later this month, invites art students to create super-sized ­gorillas, rhinos and even dinosaurs out of braided straw over a wooden frame.

York’s festival sculptures have timed neatly with the Japanese event.

Like the Japanese sculptures, the bilby, turtle and frog will remain on display until the end of this month, when all will then be reduced to piles of straw.


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  • yielded: produced
  • sheafs: bundles or stalks tied together
  • annual: every year
  • oversee: be in charge of
  • status: the current situation of something
  • tatami: traditional Japanese floor mats made of rice straw



  1. Where is York?
  2. What is the wheat used for in Japan?
  3. What is the traditional sculpture art called in Japan?
  4. What three animals did they make in York?
  5. Name one type of noodle using West Australian wheat.

1. Japanese art forms
In this article we learnt about a Japanese art form called Wara art. Write a short definition to explain what Wara art is and then do your own research to write a short definition explaining each of these other Japanese artforms:

  • Shodo
  • Ikebana
  • Origami
  • Tea Ceremony

2. Extension
Which other animal would you like to see a Wara art sculpture of and why? Draw a sketch of what it would look like.

Time: Allow 25 minutes
Curriculum links: English, The Arts, Intercultural Capability

With a partner see if you can you identify all the doing words/verbs in this text. Highlight them in yellow and then make a list of them all down your page. Now see if you and your partner can come up with a synonym for the chosen verb. Make sure it still makes sense in the context it was taken from.

Try to replace some of the original verbs with your synonyms and discuss if any are better and why.

HAVE YOUR SAY: What is the best sculpture you have ever seen? Why did you like it? Use full sentences. No one-word answers.

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