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Songlines – Ground-Breaking Exhibition Showcases Sweeping Seven Sisters Creation Saga

October 7, 2017 Attraction No Comments Email Email

An ancient creation saga featuring a dramatic chase across the Australian deserts is at the heart of the ground-breaking exhibition Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters, which has opened at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

A world first in scale and complexity, Songlines: tracking the Seven Sistersshowcases sections of five Indigenous Western and Central Desert songlines, utilising some 100 paintings and photographs, objects, song, dance and multimedia to narrate the story of the Seven Sisters, as they traverse the continent from west to east, through three states, three deserts and across some 500,000 square kilometres.

The exhibition features the world’s highest resolution six-metre-wide travelling DomeLab under which visitors will be immersed in images of Seven Sisters rock art from the remote Cave Hill site in South Australia; animated art works; the transit of the Orion constellation and the Pleiades star cluster.

By standing beneath the Dome visitors will be transported to Seven Sisters sites. By following the trail of stunning art and installations, visitors will effectively “walk” the songlines – which are both complex spiritual pathways and vehicles for naming and locating water holes and food, critical for survival.

The project was initiated by Indigenous elders who set out to preserve the stories for future generations and to promote understanding of songlines among all Australians.

“I am immensely proud of Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters which is the culmination of more than five years of collaboration between Indigenous communities and the National Museum – nothing of this scale has been attempted before,” said National Museum director, Dr Mathew Trinca.

Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters traverses three Indigenous lands – APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara); Ngaanyatjarra and Martu.

“Songlines are a cross cultural term, a passport to the deep knowledge embedded in the land which we now all share. They are our foundational stories about the creation of this continent and critical to the sense of belonging for all Australians,” said National Museum lead Indigenous curator, Margo Neale.

Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters portrays the drama of creation, desire, flight and survival by telling the story of a journey made by a group of female Ancestral beings who are pursued by a powerful mythological, shape-shifting figure.

Since 2012, Museum curators – led by an Indigenous Community Curatorium – have gone on-country to track the Seven Sisters songlines.  Along the way, Indigenous cultural custodians of the stories have produced art works which tell their aspects of the tale – many of these pieces will go into the Museum’s National Historical Collection. As a result of this project, research material collected by National Museum curators has been provided for upload into the Aboriginal-managed digital archive Ara Irititja, in Alice Springs.

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