Funky Gibbon…

Jun 20 2023 | By More

Giant gibbon sculpture set to dominate Newington

A giant inflatable sculpture of a Skywalker Gibbon looks set to be the largest animal addition to the Fringe since Underbelly plonked its upside-down purple coo into Bristo Square.

The 20 metre wide sculpture is by Australian artist Lisa Roet. The Skywalker will be attached to the front of the King’s Hall in Newington as part of its takeover by the House of Oz; provided the force is with it in its ongoing application for planning consent to the Edinburgh Council.

Visualisation of Lisa Roet’s Skywalker Gibbon sculpture, in place on the King’s Hall. Render: Felipe Reynolds

The sculpture is hand stitched from a lightweight metallic material and shows the recently discovered Skywalker Hoolock Gibbon in a ‘call’ position as it sings across the canopy of Edinburgh, looking for love.

The gibbon’s two meter high head will thrust three and a half meters out from the front of the King’s Hall on South Clerk Street.

heaven movement

The Skywalker Gibbon was discovered in 2017 by a team of StarWars-loving scientists in the Gaoligong Mountains, which straddle the border between southwest China and northern Myanmar.

As well as referring to the StarWars hero, the specific name of the endangered gibbon is tianxing – a transliteration of the Chinese terms 天 (tiān) meaning “heaven” and 行 (xíng) meaning “movement” – and reflects the historical Chinese view of gibbons as almost mystical beings as they swing or walk through the rainforest canopy.

Photo of a previous installation of the Skywalker Gibbon in China. Pic Lisa Roet.

In a statement to the Edinburgh council in support of its planning application, House of Oz say: “Gibbons are known as the only “monogamous” primates (along with humans) and partners for life. They present a love song that echoes across the tree canopy of Yunnan calling to their mate.

“Deforestation is allowing easier human access, hence the discovery and taxonomic recording of new plants, animals, insects and bacteria. The urban and the natural worlds are merging with ‘wild’ nature having to coexist in increasingly urban environments.

“The placement of the artwork on the building is representative of this need to both cohabitate with nature and also a call to preserve global biodiversity.”

This is not Lisa Roet’s first simian in Edinburgh. In 2021, her 10 metre high Golden Monkey was seen climbing up Inverleith House in the grounds of the Royal Botanic Garden. She has been using the image of the ape and monkey over three decades to hold up a mirror to humanity.

House of Oz is a platform to showcase the depth and breadth of Australian talent “from the emerging to the veteran”, in a venue with a distinctly Australian flavour. It “provides production, marketing and PR support for Australians to showcase their work in its best possible light, in a way that makes them proud.”


House of Oz:
BBC report of “StarWars Gibbon”:

Lisa Roet:

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