Blue Mountains residents were among the mourners to pay tribute to Aboriginal artist Bundeluk at Castlebrook on Monday, June 16.
Bundeluk (Ian Watson) counted Kevin Rudd, the Dalai Lama and actor Russell Crowe among his customers. He died suddenly on Sunday, June 8, aged 53.
Bundeluk, which means crimson rosella, was son of Alan and Aunty Edna Mariong Watson. He had a famous Aboriginal lineage, being descended from Gomebeeree and his son Yarramundi (born 1760) of the Boorooberongal clan of Richmond and Windsor.
He exhibited his art in Milan in Italy and Hong Kong in 2000, and in 2004 during the Olympic Games an emu egg he painted was displayed in Athens as part of an Indigenous Australia exhibition. He painted the Darug trail signs at Mount Tomah Botanical Garden and was also the subject of an Archibald Prize portrait entry.
He was a familiar figure in Springwood and Leura town centres where he sold his artworks.
But he wasn't just an artist - he was also known as a storyteller, bush tucker man and Aboriginal culture activist.
In 1994 he lodged the first Native Title claim to land in metropolitan Sydney. It included what was Excelsior Reserve at Baulkham Hills and adjoining state forests. He was instrumental in having this land renamed Bidjigal Reserve after the clan that used to live in the area.
He was also the founding chairman of the Darug Custodian Aboriginal Corporation in 1996 and was part of mediation talks that led to a positive settlement of the claim.
For two years from 1999 he worked as an Aboriginal discovery ranger for National Parks; he designed the River of Hands, an art installation near the Hawkesbury River in 1999, and for more than 10 years he taught Darug culture and history to children at the Brewongle Environmental Education Centre at Sackville North.
His native food knowledge led to him designing bush tucker gardens at Bligh Park, Marayong Heights and Northmead Public Schools, and Lake Parramatta.
Hawkesbury council's general manager, Peter Jackson, said that council was sad at his passing and had put its flags at half mast "out of respect for Mr Watson and his family". Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill also paid tribute, describing Bundeluk as a "much-loved" local character.
Labor spokesperson for Macquarie Susan Templeman posted on Facebook: "Very sad to learn of the sudden death of Bundeluk. We'll miss his dreadful jokes, having a chat outside Westpac in Springwood, his eclectic BBQs and running commentary via text on the current state and federal governments... One of a kind.".
Bundeluk's sister Leanne Watson posted on Facebook: "I am pretty sure Bundeluk's art has touched people all over the world. My brother was an inspiration to Darug people and our culture. He will be missed by many."