Woolloomooloo artwork honours Juanita Nielsen

Kings Cross activist’s legend preserved in community centre piece

A public artwork celebrating the life of Juanita Nielsen, the heritage activist, hangs in the community centre that bears her name.

Local artist Locust Jones created the 10-metre long, hand-painted linen curtain, Woolloomooloo, in consultation with the community.

Displayed in Juanita Nielsen Community Centre, the artwork honours the activist and her presence in the local area. Nielsen was a vocal opponent of the redevelopment of the Kings Cross area in the 1970s. She launched a vigorous editorial campaign in support of the Green Bans movement.

After visiting Carousel, a famous drag club, in July 1975, Nielsen disappeared. Her cause of death was never confirmed, but in 1983 a jury stated that there was “evidence to show that the police inquiries were inhibited by an atmosphere of corruption, real or imagined, that existed at the time.”

Locust Jones in his studio.

Artist Locust Jones thoroughly researched Nielsen and surveyed the local area, where he lived briefly in the 1990s. He drew heavily on illustrations created by community members, compiled during a series of workshops. Jones said the drawings of some of the primary school-aged kids, who unsurprisingly know nothing of Juanita, were the most inspiring. Insights from older adults also proved a fascinating resource.

“Some of the older adults knew Juanita personally. I also interviewed the head of police for the area at the time,” said Locust Jones.

“He said there’s a lot he knows and doesn’t know about the disappearance – and a lot he can’t talk about!”

The artist weaved his own perspective among the personal stories of the local residents. Many residents witnessed the Darlinghurst evictions and Juanita’s protest of these. He said this sentiment resonates well with his own practice, which often has political connotations.

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