When Linda Higginson heard that a long-time employee at her local supermarket had died, she felt an enormous sense of loss.
Nebi (surname withheld) worked for many years at The Cook Grocer. Through his work at the store he helped guide a generation of young people through their first jobs, a scene replicated in many suburban supermarkets throughout Canberra.
When Nebi passed away last year, Linda reflected on the role he had played in the life of her family.
“He was a true gentleman,” she said, “He trained all three of my boys at The Cook Grocer. He was a real mentor and was very much part of the community. He was an incredibly hard worker, a family man.
“I always had a close connection with him, he always took an interest in my family and he played an extremely positive role in the lives of so many in our community.”
Linda thought about the most appropriate way to pay tribute to Nebi. She studied art at Canberra High and had experience with many forms of art, so it seemed appropriate that Nebi was remembered through a visual expression.
She approached the owners of The Cook Grocer – George, Marie-Anne and Daniel Raad – who have owed the store since 2003.
Linda spoke to them about her proposal to create a mural on the chalkboard at the front of the shop, which was normally full of advertisements for specials and what’s in season.
“I approached them with my proposal,” Linda said. “They said ‘we’d love you to do it, but can you draw?’. I said, ‘trust me’, and they did.”
With the French impressionist Edgar Degas as her inspiration, Linda used pastel as the medium to create her chalk art tribute.
“The mural took me about 40 hours all up to create. I listened to music as I worked away.”
The mural depicts Nebi’s love of family, gardening and birds.
“He loved feeding the birds,” Linda said. “It’s something he always did while he worked at the grocer.”
The mural has further emphasised the sense of community in Cook and many people within the community have voiced their appreciation of the work.
Public art depicting life in Canberra has taken off around the city with many buildings now adorned with depictions of community leaders and people who have contributed.
Linda’s mural celebrating Nebi is different. It is about someone who was integral to a local community. It celebrates the fact that Nebi contributed to the people of that community in ways that were unique to him.