Day 43: Let’s give them a big hand

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The Hands in Eagle Street

The Hands in Eagle StreetMANY a great sculptor has at some time turned his hand to hands, notably I would point to France’s August Rodin, while Sweden’s Carl Milles’ work “God’s Hand”, in Stockholm can’t be palmed off lightly either.

Brisbane has its own set of hands by Sebastian di Mauro – who was born and raised in an Italian community in North Queensland  – one pointing skyward and the other creeping along the ground.

They were his first public art commission, although there have been many around the country since, and appeared on the footpath in a handy location not far from the river at Eagle Street, in 2003.

Mysteriously, they are called Chat, which I don’t get although they are definitely a talking point and can’t be missed as they shine in cast aluminium and are very big hands – one at 235x150x40cm and the other 225x125x56cm – plonked on the pavement.

Although officially named Chat, they are locally known as simply “The Hands” or “Hopoate” – and that’s a story that gives an insight to the Australian sense of humour.

In 2001, a Sydney rugby league player called John Hopoate became the butt of many jokes and gained a certain notoriety because, during a match against the Norht Queensland Cowboys, he poked his finger up the bum of three opposing players to “unsettle them”.

The Hands
The Hands in Eagle Street

The matter was referred to the judiciary and, in his defence, Hopoate claimed he was merely attempting to give them a “wedgie” and what happened on the field should stay on the field.

His three victims disagreed, one of them telling the panel of judges, and I quote:  “It wasn’t a wedgie. That’s when your pants are pulled up your arse. I think I know the difference between a wedgie and someone sticking their finger up my bum”.

Hopoate became better known for his finger than his football playing and the colloquial name for the pointing finger of Brisbane came about.

Mr Di Mauro was quoted as saying that while he appreciated that the Hopoate reference was “not endearing”, he was proud his sculpture had grabbed the public’s attention and become part of the social fabric of Brisbane.

The Hands in Eagle Street
The Hopoate finger

In December 2011, the Hopoate finger was vandalised and taken away for repairs. The nearby building’s owners took their time putting it back as refurbishments were underway.

Brisbane City Council came to the rescue, claiming that the sculpture had been commissioned as a condition of the building’s development approval and the hands had to remain in public view.

Mr di Mauro, a lecturer at a Brisbane university, said the work was site specific and should stay where it was put.

And they are still there.  You need to see them first hand.

Gods Hand milles garden stockholm
God’s Hand in Stockholm